Paul Ehrlich was interviewed by CBS’ 60 Minutes for its opening 2023 broadcast. Do the people at 60 Minutes vet the people they interview, especially those who claim to be authorities on a particular subject? The thing is, not a single prediction of Ehrlich’s since 1968 has come true. Ehrlich is a biologist and professor emeritus of population studies at Stanford University, a member of the American Philosophical Society, and a member of the Royal Society who served as a correspondent for NBC News.
Ehrlich claimed on 60 Minutes that “humanity is not sustainable…. To maintain our lifestyle — yours and mine, basically — for the entire planet, you’d need five more earths. Not clear where they’re gonna come from.” Anyone listening to this guy for the first time would be scared to death and most likely would join the Climate Change cult with promises of environmental salvation. What is Ehrlich’s predictive success rate?
• 1968: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over.”
• “In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death.”
• 1970: “In 10 years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct.”
• 1971: “I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”
“Steven Pinker, a Harvard professor and cognitive psychologist, wrote that he was ‘stunned to see always-wrong Paul Ehrlich softballed as an authority on imminent doom.’” Jordan Peterson tweeted, “Paul Ehrlich has been famously wrong about everything he has predicted for six decades.” Elon Musk wrote, “His ‘Population Bomb’ book might [be] the most damaging anti-human thing ever written.” (Source) I’m surprised the Democrats didn’t have Ehrlich testify at the January 6th hearing as an expert witness!
By What Standard?
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These media outlets want to scare people so they will make irrational political decisions and accept the coming new tyranny all for their own good. The Sky is Falling rhetoric is designed to control people: “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help you.” Tyranny is always masked as benevolence. No tyrant ever promises to do harm, but behind every tyrant, even those wearing a suit and tie, is pure malevolence.
In his book 1968 The Population Bomb, Paul R. Ehrlich made numerous predictions about the future of our planet based on his understanding of population growth and projected food supplies. Ehrlich’s work was not new. Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), a British political economist and mathematician, proposed that population growth would outstrip any increase in food supplies in his day.
Malthus theorized that food production follows an arithmetical growth rate (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and so forth) while population growth follows a geometrical pattern (1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, ad infinitum). The hypothesis seemed irrefutable because it was based on the exactitude of mathematics These “irrefutable facts” meant, according to Malthus, that mass starvation for Great Britain was imminent and inevitable. More than 225 years have passed since Malthus formulated his theory, and Great Britain is more populace and productive than it was when Malthus made his calculations.
Malthus argued that two types of checks hold population within resource limits: The first, or preventive check to lower birth rates and the second, or positive check to permit higher mortality rates. This second check “represses an increase which is already begun” but by being “confined chiefly, though not perhaps solely, to the lowest orders of society.” The preventive checks could involve birth control, postponement of marriage, and celibacy while the positive checks could involve hunger, disease and war.
We might add abortion, transgenderism, planned epidemics, and people like Yuval Noah Harari, a homosexual, who is World Economic Forum (WEF) leader Klaus Schwab’s “right-hand man.” Harari is asking the question, “What do we need so many humans for?” His answer? “We just don’t need the vast majority of you.” The late Prince Philip stated the following in 1988: “In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, to contribute something to solving overpopulation.”
A Population Bomb
The failure of the Malthusian worldview did not deter Ehrlich from making similar predictions. He asserted dogmatically, “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.” In 1969, Ehrlich continued with his predictions, stating, “By 1985 enough millions will have died to reduce the earth’s population to some acceptable level, like 1.5 billion people.” The same year, he predicted in an article entitled “Eco-Catastrophe!” that by 1980 the United States would see life expectancy drop to 42 years because of pesticides, and by 1999 its population would plummet to 22.6 million. Life expectancy is 76 years and Ehrlich is 90 because the facts tell a different story.
“All you can see is growing wealth around the world, increased caloric intake, increased life expectancy, increased per-capita wealth,” says Jerry Taylor, director of natural resource studies for the Cato Institute, a Washington research center that opposes most government intervention.
“We are increasingly conquering death around the world,” Taylor adds. “A century ago, human life expectancy was about 30 years. Now it’s 60 or 70 years. People are not starving to death. They are getting better food and they are living longer.”
And because they are living better, Taylor said, people are having fewer children.
Some countries are paying couples to have more children. Japan is in a birth-rate crisis. In the mid-seventies, with the release of his book The End of Affluence, Ehrlich outlined a Hollywood-style disaster scenario where he foresaw the President dissolving Congress “during the food riots of the 1980s,” followed by the United States suffering a nuclear attack for its mass use of insecticides. Like Malthus before him, in 1969 Ehrlich did not see much of a future for England. “I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”
In 1976, he went beyond predicting food scarcity and took it upon himself to make unfounded pronouncements about natural resources. “Before 1985, mankind will enter a genuine age of scarcity … in which the accessible supplies of many key minerals will be facing depletion.” Economist Julian Simon won a bet with Ehrlich on whether the price of five strategic metals which Ehrlich chose (copper, chrome, nickel, tin, tungsten) would rise or fall in a ten-year period from 1980 to 1990. All five metals went down in price. Ehrlich lost the bet.
Chicken Little on Parade
Ehrlich was not alone in adopting a Chicken-Little worldview. In the January 21, 1976, issue of Parade Magazine, an ad appeared that asserted the following: “It’s fact. The latest U.S. Government figures indicate our proven [oil] reserves will only last [12 years.] … These frightening numbers reveal our energy problem.” It wasn’t a “fact.” Sheikh Yamani, a former Saudi oil minister predicts a crash in the price of oil and that “within a few decades, vast reserves of oil will lie unwanted and the ‘oil age’ will come to an end…. Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil—and no buyers. Oil will be left in the ground.” Any shortage of oil today is the result of purposeful limiting of supplies by government-controlled cartels, governmental restrictions on new drilling ventures because of environmental concerns, and technological shortcomings.
Despite being wrong on nearly every environmental prediction, Ehrlich and others who have adopted his worldview continue to insist that overpopulation is an out-of-control problem. And yet Ehrlich has never explained how “overpopulated” Japan, Belgium, and Holland, with more than 500 people per square mile, have a higher standard of living than Columbia, Kenya, and Ethiopia with less than 100 people per square mile. Why is it that “very densely populated places like Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore report no famines”? Hong Kong has 20 times the number of people per square mile as India, and yet, the standard of living in India is one hundredth of what it is in Hong Kong. (This might soon change since Communist China now controls Hong Kong.) Consider Singapore. This tiny nation “has more than 10,000 people per square mile, and its income per capita is more than 200 times higher than that of Ethiopia.”
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Ehrlich’s claim that natural resources are the deciding factor in determining whether a nation will be prosperous enough to feed its population cannot be substantiated by a rehearsal of the facts. “Japan has no petroleum and imports most of the natural resources needed to produce its large industrial output. Yet it has a much higher per capita income than Mexico, which has abundant minerals, fertile soil, large petroleum deposits, and rivers capable of producing much hydroelectric power.” In reality, civil war, socialist and Marxist economic policies, nature worship, and bureaucratic obstacles contribute more to famine and poor living conditions than overpopulation.
Facts? Who Said Anything About Facts?
Why doesn’t Ehrlich discuss the facts that contradict his worldview? Why does he continue to receive accolades for his unfounded pronouncements when there is so much contrary evidence? Why did Ehrlich’s predictions fail to come to pass? Ehrlich began with unproven and false assumptions about population growth, food production, and technological advances and used these to construct his worldview. The “facts” were then made to fit the unproven theory. Because the model he used, like almost all who predict dire consequences from present population statistics, was flawed in its basic assumptions, its conclusions were faulty.
Thomas R. Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, 2 vols., Everyman’s Library (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co.,  1958.
Paul R. Ehrlich, The Population Bomb, rev. ed. (Rivercity, MA: Rivercity Press, 1975), xi. Quoted in Thomas Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulations as a Basis for Social Policy (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 67. In the first edition, Ehrlich stated: “There is not enough food today. How much there will be tomorrow is open to debate. If the optimists are correct, today’s level of misery will be perpetuated for perhaps two decades into the future. If the pessimists are correct, massive famines will occur soon, possibly in the early 1970’s, certainly by the early 1980’s. So far most of the evidence seems to be on the side of the pessimists, and we should plan on the assumption that they are correct. After all, some two billion people aren’t being properly fed in 1968!” (Paul R. Ehrlich, The Population Bomb [Binghamton, NY: Sierra Club, 1969], 36-37).
The exception to “increased life expectancy” is the rampage of AIDS-like diseases in African nations. This epidemic has little to do with population growth and more to do with lifestyle choices and poor sanitary conditions. Africa’s inability to deal with these problems are the the result of mistaken ideological, political, and spiritual assumptions about reality.
Jeff Nesmith, “6 Billion and Growing Fast,” The Atlanta Journal/Constitution (October 10, 1999), D3. Large families were often necessary because of high infant mortality, long-term family care (true social security), and the need for manual labor. With better medical care, capitalist economies, and advances in technology, families, on average, choose to have fewer children.
Paul R. Ehrlich, The End of Affluence: A Blueprint for Your Future (New York: Ballantine Books, 1974).
Michael Fumento, “Doomsayer Paul Ehrlich Strikes Out Again,” Investor’s Business Daily (December 16, 1997).
Quoted in Fumento, “Doomsayer Paul Ehrlich Strikes Out Again.”
For an account of the wager, see John Tierney, “Betting the Planet,” New York Times Magazine (December 2, 1990), 52. Copper is being replaced in the communication’s industry by “fiber optics.” Two hair-thin fiber optic strands can carry 24,000 telephone calls. It would take 48,000 copper wires to carry the same number of calls.
See Arnold Hite, “Chicken Little Was Wrong About Oil, Too,” Wall Street Journal (February 3, 1988).
Quoted in Mary Fagan, “Sheikh Yamani predicts price crash as age of oil ends,” London Telegraph (electronic version), Issue 1857 (June 25, 2000).
Madeleine Nash, “Grains of Hope,” Time (July 31, 2000), 38-46.
Thomas Sowell, The Economics and Politics of Race: An International Perspective (New York: William Morrow, 1983), 212.
Sowell, Economics and Politics of Race, 211.
Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich, The Population Explosion (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990), 37–40.
Sowell, The Economics and Politics of Race, 214.
David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators, 3rd rev. ed. (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1996), 113-21, esp. 119.