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Cut world population and redistribute resources, expert urges

Nuclear disaster or plague likely unless population shrinks and natural resources are reassigned to poor, says Prof Paul Ehrlic

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.

audioThe 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.”

The Guardian

9 Comments on "Cut world population and redistribute resources, expert urges"

  1. sidd on Thu, 26th Apr 2012 2:10 pm 

    Here’s a crazy thought – instead of redistributing our wealth to poor people (which will only encourage them to have MORE children) – how about poor people NOT HAVING CHILDREN. Problem solved.

  2. BillT on Thu, 26th Apr 2012 2:59 pm 

    sidd…how about just making the population one less…? Maybe your comment should be directed at Mormons, Catholics and Muslims who deny birth control or family planning to their members?

    The Catholic Church here in the Philippines tries to prevent the government from making any attempt to control population growth. That is typical of Catholics in the Us too, but education dulls that power and they know it. Like the government, religions prefer their members to be uneducated and obedient. Countries not dominated by religion and have educated women have low birth rates.

    The stereotype of the poor female with 6 kids is NOT typical. It is just class warfare. If family planning and contraception were provided to every female, the population would go down.

    all, it takes a male to make a child. And one man can sire tens of thousands of babies in his life time, given a chance, where as the female is limited to maybe 20 or so each. So, it is really the man’s fault there are so many people. Maybe castration is the way? Or tie off after one child? Try to do that to any male and see what happens…lol.

  3. Kenz300 on Thu, 26th Apr 2012 5:25 pm 

    Too many people and too few resources.

    If you can not provide for yourself you can not provide for a child.

    Every country needs to balance population with food, water, energy and jobs. Those that do not will be exporting their populations.

  4. Arthur on Thu, 26th Apr 2012 7:08 pm 

    Cut world population… sounds like someone wants Stalin back to implement such a policy. Not going to happen voluntarily.

  5. DC on Thu, 26th Apr 2012 8:03 pm 

    Is that just bad example? Stalin was very pro-birth, maybe loseing 25million citizens in a certain conflict may have played some role in that, but Joe afaik, was never an advocate of population control, much less reduction. Joe is the kind of guy that would throw Prof. Elhric there in a gulag for even suggesting such a thing.

  6. WJM on Thu, 26th Apr 2012 8:14 pm 

    The earth is a closed system and therefore population control will be achieved through natural selection. There is no other way. We humans sure as heck are not going to do it. We are destined for some sort of major disaster (most likely disease IMO) to reduce a population that is straining mother nature’s teet.

  7. Arthur on Thu, 26th Apr 2012 8:27 pm 

    “Uncle Joe”, as Churchill used to call him, whacked an estimated 20 million of his people, not related to war. I am not saying he advocated birth control, but he sure got rid of a lot of people.

  8. wermod on Thu, 26th Apr 2012 11:34 pm 

    Population is never going to go down ‘voluntarily’ or ‘humanely’. Fucking is never going to go out of style.

  9. Kenz300 on Fri, 27th Apr 2012 8:12 pm 

    Access to family planning would reduce unplanned births. Most people would not choose to have an additional child if they were struggling to provide for themselves.

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