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Ehrlich’s Population Bomb

“People are realizing that we cannot forever continue to multiply and subdue the earth without losing our standard of life and the natural beauty that must be part of it. these are the years of decision- the decision of men to stay the flood of man. ” Ehrlich here explains the one of the most pressing problems facing man in the 20th century. In Population Bomb, Ehrlich explains that pollution, shortages, and an overall deterioation of the standard of living is all due to overpopulation. In chapter one Ehrlich explains the pressing problems facing modern ivilization and how these problems are directly or indirectly linked to overpopulation.

Ehrlich explains situation using various examples of how mass starvation is inevitable if population continues to increase the way it is currently. In third world countries their food supplies are becoming increasingly scarce because of their increasing populations. In these third world countries the rich-poor gap is increasing creating the potential for large parts of the population to starve. Paraphrasing Ehrlich’s ideas in chapter can be explained as; there is only so many resources and as population increases hose resources will soon be depleted.

Ehrlich uses historical population research to lead to the conclusion that in 90 years the population could be well over the earths carrying capacity. In third world countries where population control is rarely used population, pollution, and scarcity are becoming ever increasing problems. Roughly 40% of the population in third world countries are children 15 years or older. Ehrlich explains that if population growth continues at this rate older generations will find themselves without adequate food and medicine.

Near the end of the chapter Ehrlich explains the cause of the massive increase in population growth; as he explains that science and medicine have decreased the death rate exponentially while the birth rate has not decreased. In “Too Little Food” Ehrlich starts off with the assumption that about 50% of the people in the world are in some degree malnourished. He uses statistics from “New Republic” and the Population Crisis Committee to put the number of deaths to around four million people dying each year of starvation alone, not disease caused by starvation.

Ehrlich explains that sometime around 958 population growth exceeded the available food supply. When this happened the laws of supply and demand took over and caused massive inflation in food costs and causes marginal farm land to be put into production. All of these signs caused a period of time with severe shortages in food. In 1966 alone the world population increased by 70 million while food production remained relativly the same from 1965. Ehrlich shows that the increasing food shortages in under developed countries are putting an extra strain on US to produce more food to keep them from starving.

Another problem arises from these food hipments to third world countries; third world countries are becoming dependant on aid shipments, and because of this their own food production has declined. Ehrlich says, ” Most of these countries now rely heavily on imports. As the crisis deepens, where will the imports come from? Not from Russia. Not from Canada, Argentina, or Australia. They need money and will be busy selling to food-short countries such as Russia, who can afford to buy. From the US then?

They will get some, perhaps, but not anywhere near enough. Our vast agricultural surpluses are gone. Our agriculture is already highly efficient so hat the prospects of massively increasing production are dim. And the problems of food transports are vast. No responsible person thinks that the US can save the world from famine with food exports, although there is considerable debate as to how long we can put off the day of reckoning. In the final part of chapter one Ehrlich states all the problems that overpopulation has created.

One of the first problems is the environmental consequences of agriculture. Even the US in facing problems maintaing our massive food production; erosion, strip-mining, and gullying have become pressing problems facing the US. Ehrlich presents a paradox by explaining that as food production is increased, the quantity and quality of the farmlands are being destroyed; man is faced with a complicated problem. One of these problems is pesticides. The pesticide industry has actually created “super pests”. These pests are immune to pesticides.

Ehrlich uses the DDT as an example of how pesticides have actually comeback to damage the ecosystem they were meant to protect. DDT a pesticide used frequently in the middle part of the century to control mosquitos and other like pests, has been found to be a carcinogen and very dangerous to human life. Traces of this chemical have been found at such bizzare places as in pengiuns in Antarctica and Eskimos in Alaska. Another problem Ehrlich denotes is the “Greenhouse Effect. ” All of the carbon dioxide from industry and air pollution has affected how much heat has been radiated back to space.

Ehrlich surmises that if we continue to tamper with the atmosphere and alter the tempature a few degrees in one way or the other; we could possibly risk another ice age, or the melting of the polar ice caps. Ehrlich closes chapter one with the basic theory of, “Too many cars, too many factories, too much detergent, too much pesticide,, ultiplying contrails, inadequate sewage treatment plants, too little water, too much carbon dioxide, all can be traced easily to too much people. Chapter three outlines what is being done to combat the problems of overpopulation.

The first solution that Ehrlich crtiques is Family Planning. Ehrlich denotes several flaws in family planning. He first notes how the Rythmn Method used by many catholic nations is only 15% effective in the prevention of pregnancy. He also notes that by the time many women come into family planning practices they already have six or seven children. Ehrlich also uses India as an empirical example of how family planning failed. India at the start of the program had a population of 370 million people and a growth rate of around 1. 3%.

After 16 years of effort by the program the population of India soared to over 500 million and the growth rate more than doubled to 3%. Ehrlich states quite emphatically, “In fact, I know of no country in the world that has achieved true population control through family planning. ” The other solution Ehrlich examines the probability of the producing more food and other materials to maintain a larger population. Ehrlich starts by saying that this is basically non-sense, the world will reach its carrying capacity and nothing can be done about it.

He says, ” Can we expect great increases in food production to occur through the placing of more land under cultivation? The answer is a most definite NO. ” If more land can not be put under cultivation then the production curve must some how be shifted to maximize output under the same status-quo situations. Ehrlich really see no way to increase production enough to counteract the effects of overpopulation. In the final chapter of what is being one Ehrlich looks at the current solutions to the environment as either impractical or borderline absurd.

Ehrlich examines how industry is polluting the atmosphere and yet their are no substantial regulations placed upon them. Ehrlich mentions several types of pollution such as: pesticides, carbon dioxide, detergent, and even noise pollution. Ehrlich closes the chapter with the analogy,” What then, is being done overall to nurse our sick environment back to health? How well are we treating these symptoms of the Earth’s disease of overpopulation. Are we getting ahead of the filfth, corruption, and noise? Are e guarding the natural cycles on which our lives depend?

Are we protecting ourselves from the subtle and chronic poisining? The answer is obvious the pallatives are too few and too weak. The patient continues to get sicker. ” In the final chapters 4 and 5 Ehrlich looks at what solutions are possible and what man can do to help out in the battle on overpopulation. Ehrlich’s solution to overpopulation is explained quite simple,” A general answer to the question `what needs to be done? ‘ is simple. We must bring the world population under control, bringing the growth rate to zero or making it go negative. “

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