In 1968, Standford University biologist Dr. Paul Ehrlich wrote the millions-selling book The Population Bomb which predicted nothing short of the global extinction of humankind due to starvation caused by an overpopulated planet.
Some of his predictions included the end of England by the year 2000, 65 million Americans starved to death by the 1970s, and an overcrowded India leading to its own demise. Of course, none of these prophecies was fulfilled and the Earth’s population has now surpassed seven billion — double that of the ’60s.
But Ehrlich’s warnings were heeded by many at that time through reading his book and watching his various appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The media was all over the story sharing the professor’s warnings. President Richard Nixon made headlines urging Congress to “attack” overpopulation. It was mass hysteria perpetrated and legitimized by the media and the government.
Followers of Ehrlich’s group Zero Population Growth (ZPG) began the movement by altering the dynamics of their own families. Many “stood up” for the cause by only having one or two children and encouraged others to do the same. All the while, Ehrlich was broadcasting his own twisted views of population control by suggesting “compulsion if voluntary methods fail” and organizing boycotts of people, companies, or products that violate the efforts of population control. He even offered “responsibility prizes” for childless marriages and proposed an extra tax of $600 to families with two children, and an additional $1,200 per child born thereafter. To top it off, a luxury tax was suggested on cribs and diapers.
Stewart Brand, a former follower of Ehrlich’s overpopulation fears, reflects back on his association with ZPG in a fascinating Retro Report by The New York Times:
How many years do you have to not have the world end to decide that whatever reason you thought the world was going to end — it actually, maybe, didn’t end because that reason was wrong?
Brand is just one of Ehrlich’s former believers that appear in the NYT mini-documentary (embedded below) that not only highlights the ZPG fallacies, but touches on the actual and current phenomenon of population implosion and its impact on the world. Brand suggests that because many countries’ population demographics are going in the opposite direction of too many, the headlines when the Earth reaches nine billion inhabitants in the next 30 years will be, “Oh, my God. We’re running out of people.”
Though Ehrlich now admits he was wrong about his predictions, he still believes that the population is out of control and the world’s end is just a matter of time. But now, his end-times visions, echoed today by many, include fears of overconsumption leading to global warming:
My language would be even more apocalyptic today. The idea that every woman should have as many babies as she wants is, to me, exactly the same kind of idea as everybody ought to be permitted to throw as much of their garbage into their neighbor’s back yard as they want.
Climate change is the new overpopulation hysteria. The Obama administration now claims that global warming is a threat to national security, it will impact how the military responds during a crisis, it will continue allowing terror groups to gain strongholds, and will directly contribute to a rise in poverty around the world.
For decades, dire predictions about the world’s end due to global warming have been spread through the mainstream media and by politicians who assure that their data is backed by the most respected scientists. Based on many of those prophecies, the oceans should have risen and engulfed entire cities by now and sea ice should be almost non-existent. Yet, that is not the case at all.
This is where Brand’s question is very timely and worth repeating: “How many years do you have to not have the world end to decide that whatever reason you thought the world was going to end — it actually, maybe, didn’t end because that reason was wrong?”