Person

Paul Ehrlich

Photo of Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich, entomologist (link)
Occupation:

Biologist

Population Control Activist

Author

Paul Ehrlich is a biologist, environmental activist, and population control advocate. He is the author of a number of books supporting population control policies, including The Population Bomb (1968).

Ehrlich was a founding member of  Population Connection (then called Zero Population Growth), a left-wing organization created to reduce population growth in the name of environmentalism. He has held a number of positions on the boards and councils of environmentalist organizations like Common Cause, Sierra Club, and Friends of the Earth, and has received a number of awards from environmentalist groups, scientific organizations, and even the UN. [1]

In 1970, Ehrlich said, “Sometime in the next fifteen years, the end will come. And by ‘the end’ I mean an utter breakdown of the capacity of the planet to support humanity.” [2] In March 2018, Ehrlich warned that civilization’s collapse in the next few decades is a “near certainty.” [3]

Political Views

Alarmist Predictions

In a 1970 Playboy interview, Ehrlich claimed that resource scarcity would cause friction between nations, which could escalate to “thermonuclear war.” In the same interview, he argued that air pollution would change the weather which could “very easily lead to massive starvation in the United States within the next two decades.” [4]

Ehrlich predicted that “Lead, zinc, and tin will probably be exhausted by the end of the century.” [5] They have not: according to the United States Geological Survey’s 2019 Mineral Commodity Summaries, the world’s lead resources total more than 2 billion tons, the world’s reserves of tin total 4.7 million tons, and the world’s zinc resources total to 1.9 billion tons. [6]

Population Control and Fertility

During speeches, Ehrlich would often tell his audiences that “population control starts at home,” referencing the fact that he decided to only have one child and receive a vasectomy afterward. While giving a speech at the University of Toledo, he was interrupted by a baby. To underscore his thesis about overpopulation, he pointed at the baby and joked, “there’s the problem.” [7]

In his 1970 Playboy interview, Ehrlich said families should not have more than two children and that achieving a low national average fertility rate of 1.3 children per family is an obligation to bring down growth. He advocated for the government to start a propaganda campaign that would discourage Americans from having more than two children and called for the stigma against childless couples to be abolished. Eventually, Ehrlich thought the government would have to set up a fertility limit, punishing those that disobeyed and rewarding those that followed it: “Laws control the number of wives you can have now and, if necessary, they’ll control the number of children you can have, too.” [8]

Ehrlich championed women entering the workplace in order to bring down the birth rate and recommended that all men receive vasectomies. [9]

He also argued that a high fertility rate among white people is more detrimental than high fertility rates in third world countries like India and among racial minorities in first world nations like African Americans because the first world middle class white population consumes more resources per capita and thus their children produce more pollution. He claimed that economic equality would bring down the fertility rates among minorities, should that be a concern to racists that fear racial replacement. [10]

References

  1. “Paul Ehrlich – CV.” Stanford. Accessed June 11, 2019. https://web.stanford.edu/group/CCB/Staff/Paul%20EhrlichCV.PDF ^
  2. Parenti, Christian. “‘The Limits to Growth’: A Book That Launched a Movement.” The Nation. June 29, 2015. Accessed June 11, 2019. https://www.thenation.com/article/limits-growth-book-launched-movement/. ^
  3. Carrington, Damian. “Paul Ehrlich: ‘Collapse of Civilisation Is a near Certainty within Decades’.” The Guardian. March 22, 2018. Accessed June 11, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/mar/22/collapse-civilisation-near-certain-decades-population-bomb-paul-ehrlich. ^
  4. Ehrlich, P. R. Playboy Interview: Dr. Paul Ehrlich – a candid conversation with the outspoken population biologist and prophet of environmental apocalypse.” Playboy Magazine. 1970. Pg. 56-57. ^
  5. Ehrlich, P. R. Playboy Interview: Dr. Paul Ehrlich – a candid conversation with the outspoken population biologist and prophet of environmental apocalypse.” Playboy Magazine. 1970. Pg. 60 ^
  6. U.S. Geological Survey. “Mineral commodity summaries 2019: U.S. Geological Survey.” U.S. Geological Survey. 2019. https://doi.org/10.3133/70202434. ^
  7. Ehrlich, P. R. Playboy Interview: Dr. Paul Ehrlich – a candid conversation with the outspoken population biologist and prophet of environmental apocalypse.” Playboy Magazine. 1970. Pg. 56. ^
  8. Ehrlich, P. R. Playboy Interview: Dr. Paul Ehrlich – a candid conversation with the outspoken population biologist and prophet of environmental apocalypse.” Playboy Magazine. 1970. Pg. 57-58. ^
  9. Ehrlich, P. R. Playboy Interview: Dr. Paul Ehrlich – a candid conversation with the outspoken population biologist and prophet of environmental apocalypse.” Playboy Magazine. 1970. Pg. 60-62. ^
  10. Ehrlich, P. R. Playboy Interview: Dr. Paul Ehrlich – a candid conversation with the outspoken population biologist and prophet of environmental apocalypse.” Playboy Magazine. 1970. Pg. 62. ^
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