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The Population Bomb

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Originally published in 1968, the best-seller The Population Bomb warned of the perils of overpopulation: mass starvation, societal upheaval, environmental deterioration.

The book was criticized at the time for painting an overly dark picture of the future. But while not all of the Ehrlich’s dire predictions have come to pass, the world’s population has doubled since then, to over seven billion, straining the planet’s resources and heating up our climate.

Can the earth continue to support an ever-increasing number of humans?

201 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1968

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About the author

Paul R. Ehrlich

87 books71 followers
Paul Ralph Ehrlich is an American biologist and educator who is the Bing Professor of Population Studies in the department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University and president of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology. By training he is an entomologist specializing in Lepidoptera (butterflies), but he is better known as an ecologist and a demographer, specifically for his warnings about unchecked population growth and limited resources. Ehrlich became a household name after publication of his controversial 1968 book The Population Bomb.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 84 reviews
Profile Image for Richard Reese.
Author 3 books160 followers
March 24, 2015
In 1968, biologist Paul Ehrlich achieved infamy by publishing The Population Bomb, one of the most controversial eco-books ever printed. Ehrlich has been condemned to spend eternity with Thomas Malthus, in a dungeon reserved for doom perverts. To this day, professors still use the two lads as great reasons to never take seriously anyone who asserts that there are limits to growth. We all know, of course, that humankind has no limits. We have technology!

Actually, Malthus never predicted catastrophic famine. He simply stated the obvious — when population reaches overshoot, the death rate will automatically rise to restore balance, one way or another (starvation, disease, conflict). A thousand people cannot prosper if forced to share ten cheeseburgers a day. The overshoot ceiling rises when food is abundant, and falls when food is scarce. Malthus was not a doomer. His cardinal sin was declaring the obvious — that there are limits to growth.

Ehrlich, on the other hand, actually did predict catastrophic famine, and soon. The first lines in his book are, “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.” Millions indeed starved, but not hundreds of millions. Everyone agrees that this prediction was inaccurate or premature.

When Ehrlich was writing, India was sliding toward catastrophic famine. Only ten nations produced more food than they consumed in 1966. In America, the postwar baby boom led to a freakish population spike of 55 million in 20 years. The streets of 1968 were jammed with scruffy rebels protesting the Vietnam War, and our totally unhip way of life. It was hip to be loud, brash, and vigorously opposed to the status quo.

At the same time, the Green Revolution was just getting rolling, and no one could foresee how well it would succeed at temporarily boosting grain production. Norman Borlaug was the wizard of the Green Revolution, and his holy mission was to reduce world hunger. He hoped that the new technology would give us 10 or 20 years to resolve our population issues. We didn’t even try. Those who recommend strict population control measures are called callous. But the leaders who take no action on population are also callous.

Naturally, much more food led to many more people. In 1968, there were 3.5 billion people, by late this morning there were 7.2 billion. World hunger sharply increased, and many other problems worsened. The Green Revolution had wonderful intentions, but its unintended consequences far exceeded its benefits, because we refused to seize the opportunity to confront and subdue the 800-pound gorilla.

The bottom line here is that Ehrlich’s predictions of catastrophe within a specific timeframe were wrong, but he succeeded in bringing a lot of attention to real and growing problems — population, pollution, and environmental destruction. At the same time, he succeeded at pissing off almost everyone.

Liberals hated him because he wanted to set population goals for poor nations, and withhold food aid from those who did not meet their goals. He contemplated the notion of withholding food aid to nations that had zero chance of becoming self-sufficient. He did not endorse the “right” of families to breed as they pleased — a right that was not handcuffed to responsibilities.

Religious people hated him because he believed that contraception and abortion should be legal everywhere, and that all children should receive rigorous training in sex education and family planning. They hated him because he believed that fetuses were nothing more than potential humans.

Environmentalists hated him, because he was a lightning rod for criticism. They believe that his fondness for bold statements made it hard for folks to trust anything greens said. He was a popular scapegoat to blame their failures on. If Ehrlich had never been born, would we be living in a sustainable utopia today?

Conservatives hated him because he wanted to regulate pollution and pesticide use. He advocated compulsory population control, because voluntary family planning has never been successful at stabilizing or reducing population. Ehrlich detested their insane obsession with perpetual economic growth, which thrived on population growth, and disregarded ecocide. But they loved him for being so loud and so bizarre. He made it easy for them to label all greens as hysterical nutjobs.

Modern society is suffocating in information. Everyone in a hunter-gatherer clan knew the entire collection of their cultural information. Today, we don’t know a millionth of our cultural information, because knowing it all is impossible. So, climatologists are freaked out about rising temperatures, while the masses are blissfully ignorant. Petroleum geologists are freaked out about the looming specter of Peak Energy, while the masses are not.

Within the realm of his specialty, Ehrlich could perceive enormous threats that society was unaware of, and this freaked him out. He was compelled to rattle cages. If he had written a dry, mature, scholarly discourse on population, with 300 footnotes, it would not have reached a general audience and provoked lively and widespread discussion. In modern society, suffocating in information, you get attention by flaming and screaming, like the election ads for candidates. Whether or not it is honorable, it works. In my opinion, Ehrlich’s ideas were sincere, and a bit inflamed, but not devious fabrications.

Ehrlich’s book was read by many, and it drew needed attention to a crucial issue. A taboo subject was let out of the closet, for a while. Others were inspired to write books. Green organizations boldly called for action, but many checkbook activists promptly revolted by putting away their checkbooks. So, the issue of overpopulation was handed over to Big Mama Nature to resolve, and she will.

While his ideas continue to outrage many, they do have a basis in cold, hard reason. We could reward couples who don’t marry until 25, and those who space their children at least five years apart. Childfree people could be eligible to win lottery prizes. “There has been little effective criticism of the medical profession or the government for their preoccupation with death control… death control in the absence of birth control is self-defeating.”

It would have been cool if humans were purely rational, realized their mistake, and took bold action to avert disaster. Ehrlich sighed. “By now you are probably fed up with this discussion. Americans will do none of these things, you say. Well, I’m inclined to agree.” He wrote because there was a wee chance for success.

Don’t read this book to learn about overpopulation and its side effects. Hundreds of newer books are far more up to date. Read this book to contemplate morals, ethics, taboos, ideologies, and communication. Contemplate his critics, and why they are so determined to banish discussion on an issue that is a major threat to humankind and the planet (see the reader comments on Amazon.com). The anger and pain that continues to swirl around this book provides a fascinating study in human nature — long-term survival vs. a mentally unstable culture.

Ehrlich is an intelligent and charismatic fellow. In 2008, on the fortieth anniversary of The Population Bomb, he reread his book and blushed a bit. He had learned a few new things in the preceding forty years, but his overall impression was that in 1968 he had been far too optimistic. He presented his current perspective in a lecture at Stanford, From the Population Bomb to the Dominant Animal (YouTube, 54 min.).
Profile Image for Renee Bulf.
5 reviews
April 14, 2016
45 years ago, and the exponential growth of world population has continued. 3.5 billion peeps in 1968 and it has more than doubled since then. Agricultural methods that rely on toxic chemicals, fertilizers, and genetic modification of seed stock, all dependent on petroleum that has surpassed its peak production and, if you talk about sustainability, half of the population in the USA will look at you like you are crazy. When I read this as a junior in high school in 1969, I thought that the Chinese were the only ones who grasped the concept with their national policy of having only one child per family. The Catholic Church and other identifiable categories of people encouraged themselves to continue to have large families, perhaps because when it comes to the breaking point, those groups with the greatest numbers will be more likely to have an identity left over. And us idiots who bought into this Malthusian hogwash will be totally outnumbered, and we will end up at the end of the bread lines. Totally depressing. Grow your organic gardens people! BTW, I am currently reading Dan Brown's Inferno, and I'm about a third of the way through. It's a great fiction related to this topic. I can't wait to reach the end and see how Robert Langdon saves the day from the evil forces attempting to obliterate the worlds overpopulated masses.
Profile Image for Martin Empson.
Author 16 books130 followers
June 10, 2019
Do any sort of campaigning around environmental issues these days and it isn't long before someone tells you that the problem is simple - there are too many people. This argument doesn't just come from the right, but is quite prevalent (though I don't think dominant) within the environmental movement itself.

Paul Ehrlich's book wasn't the first to put this argument when it was first published in 1971, but it was certainly enormously influential, selling hundreds of thousands of copies and propelling Ehrlich to fame. Ehrlich argues that overpopulation was the root cause of a whole host of social issues, though he did focus on two, questions that remain central to this sort of polemic today - hunger and environmental destruction.

The problem is he was, and the argument today remains, wrong.
Profile Image for Alan Smith.
125 reviews8 followers
May 1, 2013
A scary and honest book, written in the seventies, but even more true today than the time it was written. Ehrlich's book reminds you that that cute, puff-cheeked lil sweetie screaming and gurgling away in the corner, that gets you all those government benefits, is actually contributing to the dangerous overcrowding that threatens to destroy our world. True, some of Ehrlich's predictions were exaggerated, and he failed to take into account some of the mitigating factors, but his basic argument - that too many humans are, paradoxically, humanity's greatest danger - remains as true today as it ever was.

Ehrlich argues that what the world needs to survive is s shift away from "let's make as many cute babies as possible" attitude into a realization that breeding should be performed responsibly and with an eye to resources. Given the growth of medieval fundamentalism in this century, the prevailing attitude that sex without procreation is somehow indecent, and that belief that birth is somehow a miracle ordained by God, one can't help but think that Ehrlich's cry for a new paradigm is falling on deaf ears - or maybe people just can't hear it because the kids are screaming too much!

Please read this one before you're tempted to have unprotected sex. Or even, instead of...
December 22, 2010
One of Cambridge Sustainability's Top 50 Books for Sustainability, as voted for by our alumni network of over 3,000 senior leaders from around the world. To find out more, click here.

The Population Bomb, as its title suggests and as the tone of writing reflects, is a warning of impending crisis. It was one of the first books to discuss the inherent conflict between growing human demands and finite resources. The most pressing concern at the time was food security. Given population and agricultural trends, it seemed likely that the world would soon be unable to feed itself.

His general thesis is that unfettered population growth is a critical driver of the world's social, environmental and economic challenges. It is a warning we would still do well to heed.
15 reviews
March 12, 2011
I read in college in the 70's. I was very impressionable. I have learned to be much more skeptical. Not recommend other than if you seek alarmist propaganda.
Profile Image for Frank.
Author 5 books16 followers
September 9, 2022
“Unless we are extremely lucky, everybody will disappear in a cloud of blue steam in 20 years,” said Stanford Professor Paul Ehrlich in 1969. His book, "The Population Bomb," had been released the previous year, and Ehrlich had discovered that there’s good money in fearmongering. Today, the book is instructive as a case study in alarmism, emotional manipulation, and the fallibility of experts.

Ehrlich argues for the creation of a “powerful government agency” (ostensibly led by himself and other experts), that would make important decisions such as how much sterilant to add to water supplies: “One plan often mentioned involves 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 population size. Those of you who are appalled at such a suggestion can rest easy. The option isn't even open to us, thanks to the criminal inadequacy of biomedical research in this area. If the choice now is either such additives or catastrophe, we shall have catastrophe.”

Ehrlich’s professorial predictions of impending “war, pestilence and famine” turned out to be not only wrong, but inversely wrong: Warfare and pestilence went down, life spans went up, food production multiplied exponentially, air and water got cleaner, and people got fatter.

A few examples of the doomsday rhetoric crammed into this bestselling book:

“The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970’s the world will undergo famines–hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death…”

“In fact, the battle to feed humanity is already lost.”

“…on the bright side, it is clear that fewer and fewer people in the future will be obese.”

“I haven’t discussed the rumor that Governor Reagan will soon announce the construction of a giant vinyl redwood tree that can be trucked around the State of California for all to see (permitting all the other “useless” redwoods to be mowed down by our progressive lumber industry).”

“If our current rape of the watersheds, our population growth, and our water use trends continue, in 1984 the United States will quite literally be dying of thirst.”

“Remember, unless numbers are limited, if those potential human beings are born, they will at best lead miserable lives and die young.”

“We should have sent doctors to aid in the program by setting up centers for training para-medical personnel to do vasectomies. Coercion? Perhaps, but coercion is a good cause.”

Profile Image for P.J. Sullivan.
Author 2 books69 followers
January 26, 2018
The voice of a prophet crying in the wilderness. Half a century later, people are still sleepwalking in denial. The elephant is still in the parlor and still no one wants to see it, or talk about it! This was a very important book. You can argue with his timeline, but the fact is that the earth has added a billion people in the last twelve years! That will have consequences, and they will not be pretty!
Profile Image for Murilo Forte.
165 reviews4 followers
June 6, 2021
Congratulations Dr. Ehrlich, you were wrong in all your predictions, and contributed a lot to the hatred among humanity by encouraging only the rich to procreate and the poor to be sterilized
4 reviews1 follower
December 18, 2015
Some things should be required in order to graduate high school and being allowed to procreate. A course in LOGIC, even if it's just pass/fail, and reading this or a similar book. Humans are delusional and refuse to accept the earth and it's resources are finite. We need a serious wake up call, as there are ALREADY too many people on this planet, as the extinction of other species has proven. We are now a cancer on the planet.
Profile Image for Pandit.
181 reviews10 followers
September 20, 2020
It is a simple premise - rapidly expanding population, and fixed amount of land to grow food.
Ehrlich was predicting, in the 70's, hundreds of millions of people dying off. Wars, famines, economic collapse. (sounds familiar, climate alarmists today???)

"massive famines will occur, possibly in the 1970s, certainly by the early 1980s."

Erlich was proposing that only the USA could produce enough surplus to provide food aid, and that this should be withheld from countries that do not reduce their populations. He is 'astounded' at "Americans who are horrified at the prospect of our government insisting on population control as the price of food aid" even though, he says, "the operation will demand many apparently brutal and heartless decisions".
Mandatory vasectomies, compulsory birth regulation, doing without cars, living with insect damage, and "to slaughter our dogs and cats in order to divert pet food protein to the starving masses in Asia"

The worst of it is, he makes a half convincing case. Except that it never happened. Population doubled since this book came out, and yet the wars, famines and disease did not occur. India, which he mentioned several times, moved from a population of 450m to 1.4b, but is now a net food exporter, and is 'greening' visibly.

Ehrlich was not only wrong, but totally, utterly wrong. Unbelievably though, he is still spouting this nonsense - he believes he was just a few decades off the mark.

This is good lesson for alarmists. The Ozone hole, peak oil, Y2K ... seems human society has a relentless appetite for "THE END IS NIGH" sandwich boards.

Try reading "The Bet" by Paul Sabin.
Profile Image for Janis.
484 reviews4 followers
June 13, 2019
Beware reading this book, it will leave you angry! This author saw many of our current problems and issues that we are experiencing daily back in the sixties, but no one wanted to listen. Or change. From the droughts and deaths from starvation in the early 80's to today's climate issues are openly discussed and a corrective plan of action is suggested. But it is a taboo suggestion - limiting the number of children people have. There are those who will quote scripture to defend their right to have a dozen or more children - in today's modern society no one needs that many children to help on the farm or to worry that they will not reach adulthood because of disease. Those same scriptures also discuss how we must be good stewards of this world and all that is in it, and right now we are not being good stewards. I want my children to read this book so they don't fall into the same trap as my generation has.
Profile Image for Erik Graff.
5,008 reviews1,117 followers
February 27, 2015
Like many of my generation, I grew up expecting nuclear war or accident, to which fears were added those of civil collapse and environmental destruction during high school. Unlike some, I sought out information about these eventualities rather than trying not to think about them and became politically active early on as a quixotic gesture in defiance of what appeared increasingly inevitable. In this context, my dad's copy of Ehrlich's Population Bomb was just more grist for the mill, a little light reading during Christmas break from college.

I had not expected the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the effect of the Chinese two-child policy or ever getting to be as old as I am now. While grateful, the extra years have not made me more hopeful except in the trivial sense that I may not live to see the collapse personally.

Profile Image for Ron.
123 reviews8 followers
May 15, 2012
Well the worst of his predictions failed to come true. Though the ideas were valid ones, the jury is still out on whether or not he was right in raising the alarm, time will tell...
Profile Image for Matt Cyprian.
6 reviews7 followers
October 15, 2014
I recommend this book very highly even though I am actually quite critical of it. It is by a biologist with no acknowledgements in what, in some parts, are clearly international-relations analyses. Furthermore, as a mathematician-turned-political scientist, I find the methodology highly suspect. There is no recognition of the fact that food problems are largely problems of distribution; for a social science text it is void of any cogent analysis of social and political or cultural factors; it takes an approach that assumes food is a stationary resource and that there are no other mitigating factors; and it fails to recognize that technology is not static. There is none of the prefatory material or clearly-marked method we would expect in a controversial book today; it is clearly meant to alarm the lay reader. It seems very pessimistic and agenda-driven. Whereas, if you look at more current controversial material such as War Against the Weak, the author takes pains to document his research and has clear thesis statements up front. "Population Bomb" is an evolutionary step, it seems, in scientific communications.

It is not stated what exactly qualifies Ehrlich to combine analyses from disparate fields or ignore research in those fields (such as eugenics, policy analysis, and industrial-agricultural fields), and there is no hint given as to the help he received from other scientists in reaching his conclusions.

I recommend it for the reason that this book influenced the shift to social engineering started by Zhou Enlai in 1974, that turned into China's "1-Child" policy under Deng in 1982.

China saw overpopulation as a threat to economic growth and hence to achieving communism, even though prior to 1974, there had been a massive drop in the growth rate--the contradiction of the Great Leap was two mini-baby booms as a result of Mao's pro-natalist policies, which were enforced by the Anti-Rightist campaigns. After Mao took the 2nd Line, Zhou turned the problem over to missile scientists in the space program. They looked at the problem through the same filter that Robert McNamara looked through at Vietnam--all numbers and quantitative analysis. This led to a "failure of imagination," as there were two big arguments against 1-Child: the drop in growth before 1974, and the fact that every other Asian state dealing with the same problem used alternatives, such as education and outreach, and managed their population growth as well or better without forced abortions and social engineering. China engaged in a 30-year campaign of persistence in cruelty and error--another word for this is "evil."

This book was a major influence on those men.

It is important to see what the Chinese advisers were looking at, and it is an object lesson in "failure of imagination." While I think the overall effect is mildly off-putting (Ehrlich defines the word "Scenario" before positing some scenarios), I think the information Erlich conveys about DDT is very important; he explains the concept of evolution quite clearly, increasing the explanatory power of the reader. Also, the scenarios themselves are compelling, and give the reader a sense of what might have made the Chinese readers perk up their ears.

This book is obviously important, and illuminates the thought of scientists at a point in history that saw the beginnings of environmentalism and global warming theory, as well as the Cultural Revolution.
Profile Image for Brett.
623 reviews24 followers
November 20, 2017
I gather the Population Bomb was quite a sensation when it came out in the late 1960s, and suggesting that mass worldwide starvation was inevitable in the coming decade or so. Obviously, the doom and gloom it predicted never came to pass, and it's not even in print any longer. It's cultural moment seems to have passed. It's an interesting read, but not for the reasons Ehrlich originally intended.

The tone of the book is...strident, I guess is the word I want. Ehrlich believed that the upper bounds of the human population carrying capacity of the earth were being breached, and the only possible result was a big upsurge in human misery in the years to come. The population of the planet has more than doubled since that time, and though there is no shortage of human misery, the catastrophe has not come to pass. In part, that's because of improvements in agricultural technology, helping us grow more and more food. In part, it's because Ehrlich has some weird ideas about resource allocation and development.

Part of my interest in this book stems from seemingly difficult to dispute, but nonetheless controversial, opinion that there are limits to the earth's resources and at some point human society will need to reckon with those limits. It would be interesting to read a thoughtful discussion of this theme, but the Population Bomb is not that. It is full of assertions and recriminations, but short on nuance. Ehrlich has the idea somehow that any increase in population will continue to deplete all human institutions. And it's true that more people need more goods and services. But it's also true that more people can produce more goods and services. For instance, more people require more doctors; yet, when there are more people, more of them will become doctors. This is hardly an insoluble predicament.

Also, of note is the very low quality of the discussion of developed vs. undeveloped nations, and the nearly unreadable callousness which Ehrlich discusses how he believes the U.S. should abandon various countries to mass starvation. Even in the most abstract sense, there is no blueprint here for how we might go about addressing overpopulation in a humane manner.

Now, even taking into account ever improving technology, there is some finite amount of people that the earth will be capable of supporting. What a realistic guess as to that number may be, I have no idea. The Population Bomb is of little use in figuring it out.
Profile Image for May-Ling.
899 reviews27 followers
June 20, 2010
i finally got around to reading paul ehrlich's pivotal book on population and i'm glad i read it. more than expected, it's a little more doom and gloom, but i think that's my perception mostly based around his predictions for the state of the world by 1970 and the apocalyptic ink drawings. they are so simple, but stark and depressing.

overall, i agree that his message is spot on and the highlights from the book include some of his proposed solutions. some of them are simple and others innovative. he even proposes some socially unacceptable answers to overpopulation, which makes some of his more conservative fixes even more appealing to the general public (not just extremely progressive folks like me!)

overall, it's an incredible piece of work and outlined so nicely - perhaps all non-fiction books should have similar types of organization since i found it very effective (the problem, why you should care, what could happen, what you can do, the future...) eventually, i'll need to pick up one of his more current works to see how far he's come in fifty years, which i'm sure will blow me away!
Profile Image for Caroline Rose.
62 reviews5 followers
January 20, 2021
Terrible take. Starts with a completely racist anecdote of the author traveling in India and arriving to some emotional truth that there are too many people on the earth due to being surrounded by Indian people in the city. Erlich fanatically promotes immediate governmental population control of mostly global South women. He relies on fascist population control rhetoric. He condemns medical research devoted to extending life because he thinks people should die sooner to even out the population levels if birth rates aren’t immediately and forcibly slashed. Beloved by white supremacist eco-fascists. He has been proven fantastically wrong. Wish this book could be struck from the historical record. It sucks.
Profile Image for Gerald Kinro.
Author 2 books4 followers
June 22, 2014
I read “The Population Bomb” when it was originally published. At the time I was a student of the agricultural sciences, and felt that Erlich had omitted and/or ignored many of the principles of food production. Still I felt that there were some credibility to his words. With an alarmist tone, Erlich foresaw a desperate future with mass starvation for millions or more by the next thirty years. He proposed solutions such as government imposed population control with the United States leading the way for the world to follow. Almost fifty years hence, the world population has increased tremendously. We do have famine and starvation but not to the extent Erlich foresaw. Yes, famine exists now as it did fifty, a hundred, a thousand, or even many more years ago. He predicted famine by extrapolating population and food production at the time without considering the other changes going on in the world we live in. Simply put, there so many variables in this world to consider before making a bold, dogmatic prediction on anything.

About the book. I am a numbers person, and I like to see charts and graphs when discussing any kind of numerical data, especially those involving population and its increase. Also, vitally lacking was a baseline starvation level expressed as a percent of the total world population. With this, future starvation levels could be compared to the original. Erlich did not mention (or highlight enough) other consequences of overpopulation. Therefore I see the work as incomplete and chicken little-like.

Profile Image for Jeremy Walker.
89 reviews12 followers
March 27, 2020
The Population Bomb is a famously book to read for anyone that wants to understand the religious and moral foundations that inspired and direct almost every political and civil law or position over the last 50 years.

The author, thankfully, was self-conscious that he understood all his beliefs were religiously founded on man and man’s reason.

For the author, for mankind to prosper than death control and population control must be instituted and a strong government must be given unlimited power so as to force society to do what these social engineers believed to be the right thing to do.

Millions upon millions may have to be allowed to die on purpose, others may have to be killed, others mutilated sexually against their will, but all for the greater good and the survival of man.

If it were possible, this author desired the Thanos Gauntlet so that with a snap of his fingers he could rid the world of it’s human problem and set all things in order again.

We will ensure life through death. This is the thesis and what the author believe to be the only moral route to go.
Profile Image for Kate Lawrence.
Author 1 book22 followers
May 27, 2021
Being over fifty years old, the book is of course dated now, but it was so important at the time that I can easily overlook that. Even today, the fact that we live on a finite planet which cannot support unlimited growth is a hard sell, as is a widespread commitment to mitigating climate change. Dr. Ehrlich somehow failed to mention the huge inefficiency--and devastating environmental impact--of livestock agriculture, but it was not well known at the time, and the number of these animals was smaller then.
I'd never wanted to have children, but that was viewed in my family as being selfish and irresponsible. Reading this book when I was in college was a lifesaver; it gave me an even stronger reason not to do so, in addition to my finding the thought of parenthood completely unappealing. It showed me that the choice to remain childless is in fact highly responsible and caring. I'm deeply grateful to Paul and Anne Ehrlich for writing it, and for standing up over many decades to the opposition these ideas unleashed.
Profile Image for Janet.
221 reviews
April 27, 2023
The book that every person should read even in 2023 it links to climate change.
This is the book that all of the 'thinking' people were reading in the 70s. Most of us at that time limited our families to two children to save the plant , we were all spirits of the world trying to help Mother Earth become a better home for us all. we'd had "Ban the Bomb" and the Aldermaston marches, most of us became blood donors, and make Love not War, be happy, help each other, was the order of the day.
How things change, We now have people proudly telling us that their 17th child is about to be born!! and with modern medicine the children will all survive…. unlike our ancestors,
over population is still with us..
Profile Image for Karl Bloss.
7 reviews
November 3, 2019
When I first picked it up, I didn't realize it was written in the 1960s. Nonetheless, the main message still holds. Since then we've managed to hold the worst effects at arm's length through technology. With the compounding effects of habitat destruction and climate change, we likely won't succeed with technology much longer unless there is an accompanying culture change on population and habitat protection. “Only when the last tree has been cut down, the last fish been caught, and the last stream poisoned, will we realize we cannot eat money.”
Profile Image for Lottee Houghton.
294 reviews
October 21, 2020
Read as part of an assignment for my masters but it is so insightful. I find it unbelievable that it was written in 1968 and pretty accurately described a scenario that is freakily like COVID. It explains that overpopulation causes more destruction of natural resources, which in turn leads to the spread of viruses from animals to humans more easily. Some of his solutions to the population bomb are very extreme but the book follows a logical argument showing that something needs to be done and soon (50 years ago?!).
Profile Image for Brenton.
153 reviews
November 14, 2009
Incredibly alarmist, makes lots of sweeping statements not backed up by analysis or evidence, and given the benefit of hindsight, incredibly wrong in his predictions. Even so, many of his more moderate prescriptions are good ideas in any event, especially about changing attitudes around reproduction and the growth rate. In a way, it's a study in how not to be taken seriously in a policy debate, and a warning about how wrong even scientific "experts" can be.
Profile Image for Jon Choi.
6 reviews2 followers
April 5, 2020
This book is fascinating as a time capsule and historical document and that's the context in which I read it. It straddles this really interesting and horrifying line of rational discussion about environmental issues and straight-up eco-fascism. Would not by any stretch call this an enjoyable read, but certainly an important one for understanding the history of environmentalism.
June 7, 2015
I'm not sure of the validity of all the information in this book. It feels like one giant scare tactic that tries to compel you to believe that the only solutions to this "problem" are extreme and negative.
Profile Image for Shadowjac.
116 reviews19 followers
September 28, 2017
Aged poorly, a lot of the predictions Paul made haven't come true so I find myself doubting a lot of what he says. Occasionally he makes good points, but the book comes off as alarmist more then anything else.
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