Paul Ehrlich is someone we’ve mentioned before on this blog. He was the author of a book in the late 1960s which predicted widespread famine and death because of overpopulation.  His predictions were wildly, incredibly wrong.  You can read some of them here. So, presumably after predicting the end of the world and recommending letting India die as too late to save forty years ago, he would have been put out to pasture somewhere, right? Perhaps somewhere he could rant and rave to his heart’s content, perhaps with a sympathetic doctor or nurse to visit him every couple of days to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself?

In fact that isn’t the case and actually he is still a professor of Stamford University and is still speaking to audiences at conferences. Recently he was in Israel giving the “Greetings” address to a Drylands, Deserts and Desertification conference.  Barbara Kay from the National Post stopped in to hear what Ehrlich is talking about nowadays, and something about what she writes makes me think that she wasn’t impressed:

“…neither time nor failure has dimmed Professor Ehrlich’s bullish self-confidence… At one point during the 45-minute rant he’d travelled 36 hours from Australia to deliver (fat carbon footprint there!), he declared, ‘The fact is, the world is coming to an end.’ He also insisted fossil fuels and cars have to go if man is to survive”

I wonder if Ehrlich has heard of the story of the boy who cried wolf? Or the story of Chicken Licken? Seriously, why does anyone take him seriously? Luckily, aside from climate change, Ehrlich is still banging on the same drum from the 60s:

“Professor Ehrlich is obsessed with overpopulation, and it seems both America and Israel are having far too many children for his liking.

America, he said, is ‘the most overpopulated country in the world.’ (What are India and China — chopped liver?) As for Israel, that cheeky little start-up nation is ‘like a third-rate country’ in its off-putting trend of families averaging 3.3 children, comfortably over replacement level. ‘It should be half that rate!’ he scolded.

Awkward. This is a country founded on the ashes of six million murdered Jews. A more sensitive observer might reasonably conclude the Jews deserve a pass on the overpopulation file, at least until its numbers approach the pre-Holocaust era, and swallow his indignation. Is it really ‘unethical’ of Israel, of all the countries in the world, to want larger families?”

Aside from his favourite of population control, Ehrlich is also worried about the aliens or crab people who are controlling the world…sorry, I mean the big oil companies (who of course are controlled by aliens and crab people):

“Professor Ehrlich is not only pretentious, he is a conspiracy theorist to boot, I was by now not surprised to learn. The politicians are ‘all owned by the oil companies’ and the military budget ‘is totally designed to protect the oil flow’; oh, and Obama himself ‘knows what’s going on,’ but his political advisors won’t let him deal with the problem.”

Something about this piece makes me think that Barbara Kay doesn’t like Ehrlich, I’m not sure what though:

“I don’t know if anyone over the age of 22 actually takes Ehrlich seriously any more. But it was a shame that an important conference had to be held in the wake of such a clownish performance. Which isn’t to say that Professor Ehrlich is not deeply knowledgeable in his field. When it comes to water, soil, trees, carbon and desertification, Professor Ehrlich is a veritable cataract of data. About human nature and communication skills, though — and especially about strategies for extending his message beyond the adoring choir of left-wing, redistributionist eco-warriors to reasonable people wishing to be informed on desertification uncontaminated by ideology — not so much.”

So, all in all, not something it sounds like we missed out on by not being there. I’m sorry to keep on going on like this, but people like Ehrlich are dangerous prophets of doom who would like us to cut down on everything, including children. His ideas are not just pigheaded, they are disastrous. Why he continues to get a platform is beyond me.

Marcus Roberts

Marcus Roberts was two years out of law school when he decided that practising law was no longer for him. He therefore went back to university and did his LLM while tutoring. He now teaches contract and...