In his 1968 book, “The Population Bomb,” Dr. Paul Ehrlich made a number of doomsday predictions, but has a poor batting average at population-related prognostication. Despite this, that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to proclaim that the sky will soon fall — and it apparently hasn’t stopped some people from taking him seriously. 60 Minutes, for example, recently showcased him as an “expert” on the alleged threat of “mass extinction” due to overpopulation.
“The rate of extinction is extraordinarily high now and getting higher all the time,” Ehrlich told 60 Minutes. “Humanity is not sustainable. To maintain our lifestyle for the entire planet, you’d need five more Earths. Not clear where they’re gonna come from.”
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According to the New York Times, Ehrlich once “forecast[ed] that hundreds of millions would starve to death in the 1970s, that 65 million of them would be Americans, that crowded India was essentially doomed, that odds were fair ‘England will not exist in the year 2000.’”
In the April 1970 issue of Mademoiselle, Ehrlich said: “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make … The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.” And in the 1970 Earth Day issue of The Progressive, Ehrlich predicted that, between 1980 and 1989, four billion people would perish in what he called the “Great Die-Off.”
Given Ehrlich’s not-so-stellar record, consulting actual experts seems advisable.
A growing body of demographers is suggesting that if a global catastrophe is, in fact, impending, it is due to declining fertility rates and a shrinking human population — not a growing one.
The global fertility rate is currently 2.4 children per woman of childbearing age. This is slightly above the 2.1 birth rate which is necessary to replace the current population. Many nations and regions, however, currently have fertility rates well below replacement level, including the United States (1.6), Japan (1.3), Russia (1.6), and Europe (1.5). In these areas, the general population is growing older and shrinking – eventually, the elderly will outnumber the young people whose labor is needed to support them. This situation is likely unsustainable.
Stanford University economist Charles I. Jones has warned that the declining birth rate will lead to stagnating incomes and a decline in prosperity, culture, and innovation. “When population growth is negative,” he says, “… growth models produce what we call the Empty Planet result: knowledge and living standards stagnate for a population that gradually vanishes.”
The United Nations is now predicting that the human population will peak in less than 60 years. Far from needing “five more Earths” to sustain a rapidly-multiplying humanity, if low fertility rates continue unabated, and population growth becomes negative, the single Earth we have may eventually grow empty.
Ehrlich is the great False Prophet of the Eco-pocalypse. Not a single one of his predictions has come to pass, even though Earth’s population has more than doubled since “The Population Bomb” was published. Evidence suggests his latest round of “foresights” are just as myopic as those he has offered in the past.