Paul R. Ehrlich

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Paul Ralph Ehrlich
Born May 29, 1932
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Nationality United States
Fields Entomology
Institutions Stanford University
Known for The Population Bomb

Paul Ralph Ehrlich (born 29 May 1932 ) is an American entomologist specializing in Lepidoptera (butterflies). He became a household name[1][2] after publication of his 1968 book The Population Bomb, in which he predicted that "In the 1970s and 1980s . . . hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now." [3][4]

Ehrlich is Bing Professor of Population Studies in the department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University[5].


[edit] Biography

Early years

Ehrlich was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He earned his B.A. in zoology at the University of Pennsylvania, an M.A. at the University of Kansas, and a Ph.D. in 1957 at the University of Kansas, under the prominent bee researcher C.D. Michener. During his studies he participated in surveys of insects on the Bering Sea and in the Canadian Arctic, and then on a National Institutes of Health fellowship, investigated the genetics and behavior of parasitic mites. In 1959 he joined the faculty at Stanford, being promoted to full professor of biology in 1966. He was named to the Bing Professorship in 1977.[6]


Ehrlich currently is the president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society.

Ehrlich's research group at Stanford currently works extensively on the study of natural populations of checkerspot butterflies (Euphydryas). Along with Dr. Gretchen Daily, he has conducted work in "countryside biogeography", or the study of making human-disturbed areas hospitable to biodiversity. Ehrlich continues to conduct policy research on population and resource issues, focusing especially on endangered species, cultural evolution, environmental ethics, and the preservation of genetic resources.

Population growth predictions Ehrlich wrote an article that appeared in New Scientist in December 1967. In that article, Ehrlich predicted that the world would experience famines sometime between 1970 and 1985 due to population growth outstripping resources. Ehrlich wrote that "the battle to feed all of humanity is over ... In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now." Ehrlich also stated, "India couldn't possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980," and "I have yet to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks that India will be self-sufficient in food by 1971." These specific predictions did not actually come to pass, and his later book The Population Explosion is much more cautious in its predictions.

The article led to the publication of The Population Bomb in 1968, advocating stringent population control policies.[7] His central argument on population is as follows:

"A cancer is an uncontrolled multiplication of cells; the population explosion is an uncontrolled multiplication of people. Treating only the symptoms of cancer may make the victim more comfortable at first, but eventually he dies - often horribly. A similar fate awaits a world with a population explosion if only the symptoms are treated. We must shift our efforts from treatment of the symptoms to the cutting out of the cancer. The operation will demand many apparent brutal and heartless decisions. The pain may be intense. But the disease is so far advanced that only with radical surgery does the patient have a chance to survive."[8]

In his concluding chapter, Dr. Ehrlich offered a partial solution to the "population problem":

"(We need) compulsory birth regulation... (though) the addition of temporary sterilants to water supplies or staple food. Doses of the antidote would be carefully rationed by the government to produce the desired family size".[9]

Dr. Ehrlich's views came to be accepted by many population control advocates in the United States and Europe in the 1960s and 1970s.[10] Since Ehrlich invoked the imagery of the "population bomb" overpopulation has been blamed for a variety of issues, including, increasing poverty, high unemployment rates, environmental degradation, famine and genocide.[11]

Dr. Ehrlich reviewed the predictions in his book The Population Bomb in a 2004 interview and the subsequent criticism that followed due to the specificity of the dates in his predictions.[12] He stated that some of his predictions did not occur, but noted that it was still “horrific” that 600 million people were very hungry and billions under-nourished or malnourished. He stated that his predictions about disease and climate change were correct.[12]

The Population Explosion (1990, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich) was followed two years later by a Centers for Disease Control publication which noted, "During the past three decades, the most common emergencies affecting the health of large populations in developing countries have involved famine and forced migrations."[13] Famine was defined as "a condition of populations in which a substantial increase in deaths is associated with inadequate food consumption".[14]

Other academic authors have echoed Dr. Ehrlich’s concerns about overpopulation. Professor Jared Diamond has argued that population growth and overusing natural resources lead to social collapse.[15] Professor Diamond predicts that these combined factors create an environmental time bomb with an estimated fuse of 50 years, after which he speculates the situation will be resolved one way or another.[15]

Dr. E.O. Wilson, a Harvard biologist and twice a Pulitzer winner, argues that overpopulation and overconsumption could result in the extinction of half of Earth's species sometime in the 21st century.[16]

On the other hand, Professor Ehrlich and his wife Anne have been praised for raising awareness of environmental matters and for bringing to public awareness issues regarding population, resources and environment, as well as making ecology a household word.[17]34

Other activities Ehrlich was one of the founders of the group Zero Population Growth in 1968, along with Richard Bowers and Charles Remington. He and his wife Anne were on the board of advisors of the Federation for American Immigration Reform until 2003. He is currently a patron of the Optimum Population Trust.

With Stephen Schneider and two other authors, writing in the January 2002 issue of Scientific American, he critiqued Bjørn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist.

[edit] Personal life

On December 18, 1954, Paul Ehrlich married Anne Fitzhugh Howland, a research assistant. They remain married and have one child, Lisa Marie.

[edit] Awards

[edit] Bibliography

  • How to Know the Butterflies (1960)
  • Process of Evolution (1963)
  • The Population Bomb (1968)
  • Population, Resources, Environments: Issues in Human Ecology (1970)
  • How to Be a Survivor (1971)
  • Man and the Ecosphere: Readings from Scientific American (1971)
  • Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions (1973)
  • Introductory Biology (1973)
  • The End of Affluence (1975)
  • Biology and Society (1976)
  • Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment (1978)
  • The Race Bomb (1978)
  • Extinction (1981)
  • The Golden Door: International Migration, Mexico, and the United States (1981)
  • The Cold and the Dark: The World After Nuclear War (1984, co-authored with Carl Sagan, Donald Kennedy, and Walter Orr Roberts)
  • Earth (1987, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)
  • Science of Ecology (1987, co-authored with Joan Roughgarden)
  • The Cassandra Conference: Resources and the Human Predicament (1988)
  • The Birder's Handbook: A field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds (1988, co-aurhored with David S. Dobkin and Darryl Wheye)
  • The Population Explosion (1990, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)
  • Healing the Planet: Strategies for Resolving the Environmental Crisis (1991, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)
  • Birds in Jeopardy: The Imperiled and Extinct Birds of the United States and Canada, Including Hawaii and Puerto Rico (1992, co-authored with David S. Dobkin and Darryl Wheye)
  • The Stork and the Plow : The Equity Answer to the Human Dilemma (1995, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich and Gretchen C. Daily)
  • A World of Wounds: Ecologists and the Human Dilemma (1997)
  • Betrayal of Science and Reason: How Anti-Environment Rhetoric Threatens Our Future (1998, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)
  • Human Natures: Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect (2002)
  • One With Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future (2004, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)
  • On the Wings of Checkerspots: A Model System for Population Biology (2004, edited volume, co-edited with Ilkka Hanski)
  • New World, New Mind: Moving Towards Conscious Evolution (1988, co-authored with Robert Ornstein)
  • The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment (2008, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Lewis, J (2000), "Biologist Paul R. Ehrlich. Six billion and counting.", Sci. Am. 283 (4): 30, 32, 2000 Oct, PMID 11203119, 
  6. ^ CV of Paul R. Ehrlich
  7. ^ Knudsen, Lara (2006). Reproductive Rights in a Global Context. Vanderbilt University Press. pp. 3. ISBN 0826515282, 9780826515285. 
  8. ^ Knudsen, Lara (2006). Reproductive Rights in a Global Context. Vanderbilt University Press. pp. 3. ISBN 0826515282, 9780826515285. 
  9. ^ Knudsen, Lara (2006). Reproductive Rights in a Global Context. Vanderbilt University Press. pp. 3. ISBN 0826515282, 9780826515285. 
  10. ^ Knudsen, Lara (2006). Reproductive Rights in a Global Context. Vanderbilt University Press. pp. 3–4. ISBN 0826515282, 9780826515285. 
  11. ^ Knudsen, Lara (2006). Reproductive Rights in a Global Context. Vanderbilt University Press. pp. 2–3. ISBN 0826515282, 9780826515285. 
  12. ^ a b "When Paul's Said and Done: Paul Ehrlich, famed ecologist, answers readers' questions"
  13. ^ "Famine-Affected, Refugee, and Displaced Populations: Recommendations for Public Health Issues" MMWR, Vol. 41 No. RR-13. Publication date: 07/24/1992
  14. ^ CDC. Toole MJ, Foster S. Famines. In: Gregg MB, ed. The public health consequences of disasters 1989; Atlanta GA 1989:79-89
  15. ^ a b "Pulitzer Prize Winner Jared Diamond Speaks on Environment, Population, and Health" Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars' (website)
  16. ^ Mitch Tobin, "E.O. Wilson: Over-Consumption, Poverty Will Squeeze Out Species" National Geographic News, reprinted from the Arizona Daily Star August 8, 2002
  17. ^ Anne and Paul Ehrlich, "Conservatives and Conservation" (Mother Earth News)

[edit] External links

[edit] Organizations

[edit] Sympathetic articles

[edit] Critical articles

[edit] Media

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