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Paul Ehrlich Addressing Vatican Conference on Biodiversity.

The population doomsayer's back!

Forty-nine years ago, Professor Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University scared the bejesus out of much of the world when he predicted that overpopulation would lead to mass starvation. In his doomsday bestseller The Population Bomb, Ehrlich wrote, "The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate."

Since Ehrlich wrote those words, the world's population has more than doubled. Yet people consume more calories per capita while living longer on a cleaner planet. Ehrlich's jeremiad did not come true for a number of reasons. The Green Revolution massively increased agricultural productivity, affordable contraceptives made family planning easier, plummeting infant mortality has reduced the need for "spare" children, and rising incomes increased the opportunity cost for women who opt to stay at home with their children rather than enter the labor market—hence massive fall in global fertility rate.

That said, Ehrlich's predictions were not without consequences. "In addition to China's one-child rule," Ehrlich must be held partially responsible for "abhorrent campaigns of forced sterilization in Indira Gandhi's India and Alberto Fujimori's Peru." Surely a man with that much to answer for has been relegated to the fringes of society? Not on your life! In fact, next month Ehrlich will be addressing a Vatican workshop on "Biological Extinction." Judging by the promotional material, he will feel right at home.

According to the Vatican, measures of human consumption have "calculated that in about 1970 we were using about 70 percent of the Earth's sustainable capacity, and now...we are using about 156 percent. Nevertheless there are 800 million people chronically malnourished and 100 million on the verge of starvation at any one time. How have such imbalances, both among contemporaries and between the present and future generations come about, and how are they sustained? The problems wouldn't go away if we had another 56 percent of the Earth to take care of our needs, but we could at least stop eating into the productive capacity of the Earth progressively as the years go by."

Human settlement and agriculture have been the traditional enemy of nature and biodiversity. Thankfully, urbanization (over half of humanity lives in cities already) and falling fertility rates (there is a distinct possibility that earth's human population will start declining during the course of the 21st century) will return some of the world's surface back to nature. This trend will be greatly enhanced by improvements in agricultural yields. As Jesse H. Ausubel of Rockefeller University points out, "if the world farmer reaches the average yield of today's U.S. corn grower during the next 70 years, 10 billion people eating as people now on average do will need only half of today's cropland. The land spared exceeds Amazonia. This will happen if farmers sustain the yearly 2 percent worldwide yield growth of grains achieved since 1960, in other words if social learning continues as usual."

If the Vatican wanted to get a real sense of the future of biodiversity on earth, it should have invited Ausubel instead of Ehrlich.

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  • UnCivilServant||

    Where did the comments go.

    There were 8, now there are none

  • sarcasmic||

    Must have reached the limits of comment sustainability.

  • UnCivilServant||

    MALTHUS!

    *shakes fist at heavens*

  • Tundra||

    I think it might be time to call the Vatican in for a meeting with the Bobs.

  • Agammamon||

    Francis, what, *exactly*, is it you would say you do here?

  • ||

    Is this a pet project of the commie pope or has this been a thing for the CC for a while now? In any case I expect the pinko talking points to take a more prominent role in the CC.

  • thrakkorzog||

    I'm guessing it's a Commie Pope thing. John Paul would have probably called out Ehrlich for the human suffering he caused, or at least told him to osculum mihi asinum if he showed up at the Vatican. But it would have been classy when he said it.

  • UnCivilServant||

    Antipope Frank has been a terrible mistake for the church.

    Tell benedict to wake up and get back to work.

  • Marshall Gill||

    Ehrlich? Julian Simon says "go fuck yourself".

  • Marshall Gill||

    Really, how can you mention Ehrich's name without mentioning how Julian Simon put his money where his mouth was and showed Mr. Ehrich how wrong he was? You would think that every single response to almost anything the dude said would be "Julian Simon punked you and your ideas decades ago. Please go away, forever."

  • 68W58||

    The sad fact is that Julian Simon and Norman Borlaug are dead, but Ehrlich lives and so can continue to spread his nonsense.

    Both proved him wrong (in different ways), but neither will get any respect from the eco-cult left.

  • thrakkorzog||

    Being a Malthusian is is like being a hardcore lottery addict. Sure, they haven't been right for the past 200 years. But one of these days they're going to be overrun by those potato eating papists, and that will show you.

  • BigW||

    It is way way way past time to stop listening to this asshole.

    I mean you could actually write a well sourced and valid paper on the theory that every goddamned thing Paul Erlich says is totally WRONG.

  • Diane Merriam||

    Or a very short one on what he got right. In fact, I've just written one ...


    ... and that concludes the new book on what Erlich got right.

  • Set Us Up The Chipper||

    Paul Ehrlich? The Wrongest Man in the Galaxy? This dude has made a career on being wrong but saying wrong things that the left loves. Did I mention he has been wrong about everything he has published?

  • Bra Ket||

    Kinda would be nice if there weren't so damn many people though...

  • Rich||

    Paul Ehrlich Addressing Vatican Conference on Biodiversity

    You can't fool *me*, Marian -- That's from The Onion.

  • Chipwooder||

    Has Paul Ehrlich ever made a prediction that came true? I mean, EVER?

  • The Fusionist||

    What can I say, it will take a *long* time for this pope's successor to clean up the mess he made.

  • Set Us Up The Chipper||

    Just slap a cruciform on his chest, then he can enjoy the sacrament of rebirth.

  • Spartacus||

    Miss Cleo has been right more often than Ehrlich. I cannot believe that anyone would still pay any attention to anything he has to say.

  • Radioactive||

    Ehrlich's jeremiad did not come true for a number of reasons...but mostly due to the fact that he's a fucking moron who couldn't count to ten using both hands...

  • Sour Kraut||

    I am good with Reason using every possible excuse to trot out Ehrlich and his fallacies and beat them like a gong, until the day there are no longer legions of gullibles who fall for his scams.

  • Loss of Reason||

    Ehrlich is this you?

  • Christophe||

    Malthusians is almost a misnomer by now.

    Malthus had a theory based on no evidence at all, but at least he didn't have centuries of counterexamples staring at him in the face.

    To still believe the same stuff now is exponentially more stupid.

  • Indian Flag Images||

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