If there‚Äôs one loony lefty who has been completely discredited by history, it‚Äôs Paul Ehrlich, author of the bestselling and wildly inaccurate ‚ÄúThe Population Bomb.‚ÄĚ
But he‚Äôs back, and he‚Äôs making even more outrageous claims, and some people are taking him seriously. Can we simply look at Ehrlich‚Äôs record and decide whether or not to panic?
Last week, Ehrlich predicted widespread cannibalism.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt think there‚Äôs going to be the centuries to come with our kind of civilizations and with the kind of ethical issues that at least some people (Republicans) in our civilization are concerned with,‚ÄĚ he said to the Huffington Post. ‚ÄúI think the issues are more likely to be, is it perfectly OK to eat the bodies of your dead because we‚Äôre all so hungry.‚ÄĚ
His interviewer was aghast. ‚ÄúReally? We‚Äôll get that bad?‚ÄĚ
Ehrlich responds, ‚ÄúOh, it‚Äôs moving in that direction with ridiculous speed.‚ÄĚ
Wait a moment. Let‚Äôs look at Ehrlich‚Äôs predictions from the past.
‚ÄúThe battle to feed all of humanity is over,‚ÄĚ he wrote in his 1968 book. ‚ÄúIn the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.‚ÄĚ
There would be 4 billion deaths from hunger in the 1970s, he prophesized ‚ÄĒ including 65 million Americans.
But that didn‚Äôt happen. In fact, we‚Äôre better at producing food now than ever.
‚ÄúSince Ehrlich wrote, the population has more than doubled to seven billion,‚ÄĚ points out the London Guardian newspaper. ‚ÄúBut the amount of food per head has gone up by more than 25 per cent.‚ÄĚ
That newspaper was particularly taken by one of his other predictions.
‚ÄúBy the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people,‚ÄĚ Ehrlich wrote. ‚ÄúIf I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.‚ÄĚ
The paper asks simply, ‚ÄúDoes England exist?‚ÄĚ
The point here is that Ehrlich‚Äôs alarmism is so extreme as to be comical ‚ÄĒ but he‚Äôs still taken seriously by the left. He still teaches at Stanford, and is still a much-sought-after speaker at other colleges. On May 1, he spoke to the University of Vermont.
‚ÄúI believe and all of my colleagues believe that we are on a straightforward course to a collapse of our civilization,‚ÄĚ he told students and faculty there.
Ehrlich is regularly cited as an expert ‚ÄĒ indeed a sage ‚ÄĒ by left-leaning news organizations and websites, such as the Daily Kos.
The Daily Kos reported in 2013, apparently with a straight face, ‚ÄúStanford biologists Paul and Anne Ehrlich have just published a provocative analysis of the future of human society in the Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences. The title says it all: ‚ÄėCan a collapse of global civilization be avoided?‚Äô Their prediction is not comforting.‚ÄĚ
Alarmism like this is one reason serious discussion and real debate aren‚Äôt taking place.