No one was more influential — or more terrifying, some would say — than Paul R. Ehrlich, a Stanford University biologist. His 1968 book, “The Population Bomb,” sold in the millions with a jeremiad that humankind stood on the brink of apocalypse because there were simply too many of us. Dr. Ehrlich’s opening statement was the verbal equivalent of a punch to the gut: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over.” He later went on to forecast 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.” Dr. Ehrlich was so sure of himself that he warned in 1970 that “sometime in the next 15 years, the end will come.” By “the end,” he meant “an utter breakdown of the capacity of the planet to support humanity.”
|Picture of Paul R. Ehrlich via the Telegraph|
At the blog of the Acton Institute, Joseph Sunde reacts to the article and video and the problems in Ehrlich's worldview.
For Ehrlich and many others, humans simply take, take, take; there’s no make, make, make. And thus, the struggle for provision, prosperity, and human flourishing is quickly reduced to a mere battle over consumption. We are leeches, drainers, and destroyers, a virus on the Earth that must be curbed and contained, if not wiped out completely (a “cancer,” as Ehrlich sometimes prefers).More than a generation after his book's apocalyptic warnings, Ehrlich's blindness to the uniqueness and preciousness of human life prevent him from admitting his obvious errors.
Take, for instance, one of his lines in the video above: “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 backyard as they want.”
Humans = bags of backyard garbage. NBD.
Fortunately for us (and for Ehrlich), humans aren’t globs of trash and the “global community” isn’t some morbid zero-sum realm wherein every new baby represents a dead mushroom on a distant mountaintop.
As Julian Simon famously observed, humans are the “ultimate resource” — valuable assets to our families, neighbors, distant strangers, and, yes, Planet Earth herself. We were created in the image of a creator-God to be co-creators and gift-givers, sharing, exchanging, collaborating, and innovating alongside the grand family of humankind. Each new child represents not some bag of waste, but a a creator and a dreamer — a unique and precious person born for relationship and brimming with capacity for production, investment, and love.