Expert warns world needs to move ‘rapidly’ toward ‘population shrinkage’


Raw Story

The world’s most renowned population analyst has called for a massive reduction in the number of humans and for natural resources to be redistributed from the rich to the poor.

Paul Ehrlich, Bing professor of population studies at Stanford University in California and author of the best-selling Population Bomb book in 1968, goes much further than the Royal Society in London which this morning said that physical numbers were as important as the amount of natural resources consumed.

The optimum population of Earth – enough to guarantee the minimal physical ingredients of a decent life to everyone – was 1.5 to 2 billion people rather than the 7 billion who are alive today or the 9 billion expected in 2050, said Ehrlich in an interview with the Guardian.

“How many you support depends on lifestyles. We came up with 1.5 to 2 billion because you can have big active cities and wilderness. If you want a battery chicken world where everyone has minimum space and food and everyone is kept just about alive you might be able to support in the long term about 4 or 5 billion people. But you already have 7 billion. So we have to humanely and as rapidly as possible move to population shrinkage.”

“The question is: can you go over the top without a disaster, like a worldwide plague or a nuclear war between India and Pakistan? If we go on at the pace we are there’s going to be various forms of disaster. Some maybe slow motion disasters like people getting more and more hungry, or catastrophic disasters because the more people you have the greater the chance of some weird virus transferring from animal to human populations, there could be a vast die-off.”

Ehrlich, who was described as alarmist in the 1970s but who says most of his predictions have proved correct, says he was gloomy about humanity’s ability to feed over 9 billion people. “We have 1 billion people hungry now and we are going to add 2.5 billion. They are going to have to be fed on more marginal land, from water that is purified more or transported further, we’re going to have disproportionate impacts on how we feed people from the population increase itself,” he said.

“Most of the predictions [in Population Bomb] have proved correct. At that time I wrote about climate change. We did not know then if it was warming or cooling. We thought it was going to be a problem for the end of this century. Now we know it’s warming and a problem for the beginning of the century; we didn’t know about the loss of biodiversity. Things have been coming up worse than was predicted. We have the threats now of vast epidemics”.

“I have a grim view of what is likely to happen to my children and grandchildren. Politicians can control the financial mess we are in but they don’t have control over the systems of the planet that provide us our food, our welfare, those are deteriorating and it will take us a long time to turn it around if we start now. It’s hard to think of anything that will pop up and save us. I hope something will but it really will be a miracle.”

But he agreed with the Royal Society report that said human population and consumption should not be divided. “[They] multiply together. You have to be deal with them together. We have too much consumption among the rich and too little among the poor. That implies that terrible thing that we are going to have to do which is to somehow redistribute access to resources away the rich to the poor. But in the US we have been doing the opposite. The Republican party is wildly in favour of more redistribution, of taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich.”


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8 Responses

  1. Property Earth says:

    What is needed is an average on consumption. Or a basic guide line for all not just for the non elites. If they say we have to many people? What about the rich who use so much of the planets resources for sometimes just entertainment and building their dreams. Do they need 10 to 50 houses, estates, castles and their own private islands, 50 cars, 5 boats, a racing car or two, An armada of transportation for their daily whim of the food they want flown in from some country around the world. Would be a better place to start. I don’t know how much one rich guy uses per day but flying in his private jet would create more pollution then I would in over a year with my family included. So in closing. I say the rich cannot be allowed to swallow up all the resources and make most of the pollution then blame the average to poor person for the state of the world we all live in. We belong to the Earth not the rich, corporates or Governments.
    Thank you
    Property Earth

  2. harmony says:

    If the money the elite gets was distributed to the rest of the world, there could be a way for everyone to survive. All the monies used for war, and meaningless things in life could go towards towns creating Geo-Domes and gardens so that each town is responsible for providing food for one another.

    The problems isn’t over-population. The problem is meaningless money and greedy people. Greedy doesn’t just mean the elite. The poor and the middle class need to understand the carbon footprint as well. If monies are distributed there would be no sense in this if we wern’t creating a better carbon footprint for ourselves.

    The earth has enough to provide but it would take cooperation on everyone’s part. That means recycling, that means maybe mixing some modern technologies with some old fashioned ways. That means everyone living a more earth friendly life without all this garbage like plastic crap, without these meaningless jobs that benefit nothing to sustain life.. That means get rid of everything in life that doesn’t sustain taking care of one another to eat, shelter, and live a beautiful life of not being a slave..

    Everyone would have to work together to create this.. Is it possible?? Could be but something needs to shake the world to make that happen because of the greediness and conditioned ways most live in.

  3. Half-time Servant says:

    All religious people should be rounded up and shipped to an island, where they can breed ‘indefinitely’ and ‘without restraint,’ while the few of us who hope for no worlds beyond this one can manage our population and biodiversity without irrational interference.

  4. Skyhawk68 says:

    There is plenty of room. You can travel for thousands of miles in the US traveling north, south, east and west and you will discover a lot of resources and vacant land. Even in Mexico you can do the same. Yes, the large cities are overburdened, but there is plenty of space in most nations. Argentina is even larger than Mexico in size, and there are thousands of miles of empty land throughout the nation.

    If the governments did not tax the agrarian community so heavily, we would have more people living off the land and producing more food throughout the USA.. Those most responsible for wasting the natural resources and raping the land around the world are the billionaries who manage the transnational companies ,and who preside as leaders in most nations.

  5. I think all these individuals who think that we are over populated should be rounded up and shipped to a island that they could be very happy living there and relieve there stress of the worlds problems then they could live happily ever after

    • the facel3ss says:

      There is no ‘thinking we are over populated’, WE ARE. This planet was no designed for 7 billion humans. think about how much the average middle class adult consumes. The amount of overweight people. The amount of elderly people. Be logical. are you honestly saying that the world wouldn’t be better with 1 billion instead of 7 billion people?

  6. Linda says:

    over forty years ago, Paul Erlich. warned in a book, with co author John Holdren (Obama’s science czar) that there would be a new ice age . Then Erlich wrote ab ood saying we wouldn’t be able to feed people by the 1975. These guys have 0 credibility.

    I suggest that if these bozos are that concerned; that they should start talking to Muslims and everyone else who have large families. Europeans and Canada, and The United States are doing their part to limit their families. The fertility rates of al these countries is now less than 2 to 1. most are around 1.7. We have also aborted our way out of replacement. I lay that at the door of eugenicistic agendas and the idiots like Erlich and Holdren.

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