The United Nations has designated today as the day that the earth gets its seven billionth human inhabitant. The Census Bureau thinks that will happen next March. Let's take this ocassion to walk a bit down memory lane to The Population Bomb. In 1968, Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich's scaremongering book vividly put Malthusian fears at the forefront of the nascent environmentalist movement. Here are a few quotes from the 1968 edition (I always refer back to that edition because Ehrlich deleted many failed prophecies in later editions without noting that he had done so):
The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines - hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash program embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate….
In 1968, Ehrlich agreed with an expert who predicted India couldn't "possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980." Furthermore, he claimed, "I have yet to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks that India will be self-sufficient in food by 1971."
That latter statement was discreetly dropped in the 1971 edition of Ehrlich's book. In fact, by the 1980s, India was exporting surplus grain to the Soviet Union. While poverty means that many Indians today suffer hunger, the country is still self-sufficient [PDF] in food production.
In a 1969 article "Eco-Catastrophe" in Ramparts Magazine, Ehrlich predicted:
Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born....By  some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think that the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.
In 1970 for the first Earth Day issue of The Progressive, Ehrlich outlined a gruesome scenario in which 65 million Americans would die of famine out of worldwide total of four billion in the "Great Die-Off" of the 1980s.
In 1970 interview in Mademoiselle magazine, Ehrlich declared:
The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.
Despite the fact that the Great Die-Off failed to materialize, Ehrlich once again declared in his 1990 book, The Population Explosion:
One thing seems safe to predict: starvation and epidemic disease will raise the death rates over most of the planet.
None of Ehrlich's dire predictions or scenarios came true. Yet here Ehrlich is being quoted today in the Australian news program The World Today. Journalist Eleanor Hall interviewed Ehrlich:
ELEANOR HALL: But you did warn in your book that the battle to feed humanity had already been lost in the 1970s and that an expanding population would bring about a higher death rate. In fact the reverse ended up being true. Did you then …
PAUL EHRLICH: That is not correct. What we said was the battle to feed all humanity is over, and since we said that, 240 million people roughly have died of starvation. So in what sense was it wrong to say the battle to feed all of humanity was over?
ELEANOR HALL: You predicted it would bring about a higher death rate and it hasn't. I'm wondering did you then and do you still underestimate the human capacity for adapting to problems, for …
PAUL EHRLICH: I am very hopeful about the human capacity to adapt to problems. What I haven't seen is any sign, any real sign of that adaptation.
Not correct? Well, it is unfortunately true that far too many poor people have starved to death or died from diseases exacerbated by undernutrition, but the global famines Ehrlich clearly predicted did not occur. As for not seeing "any real sign of that adaptation" -- you've got to be kidding.
By the way, the world death rate was 13 per 1,000 when Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb. Every decade since it has fallen and is now 9 per 1,000 people.