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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Paul R. Ehrlich
Born 29 May 1932 (1932-05-29) (age 77)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Residence Stanford, California
Nationality American
Fields Entomology, Population Studies
Institutions Stanford University
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania, A.B.
University of Kansas, M.A., Ph.D.
Doctoral advisor C.D. Michener
Known for The Population Bomb
Notable awards Sweden's Crafoord Prize in ecology, 1990

Paul Ralph Ehrlich (born 29 May 1932) is an American biologist and educator who is the Bing Professor of Population Studies in the department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University and president of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology.[1][2]. By training he is an entomologist specializing in Lepidoptera (butterflies), but he is better known as an ecologist[1] and a demographer, specifically for his warnings about unchecked population growth and limited resources. Ehrlich became a household name[3][4] after publication of his controversial 1968 book The Population Bomb.


Life and career

The Bay checkerspot butterfly

Ehrlich was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father was a shirt salesman, his mother a Greek and Latin scholar.[5] He earned a bachelors degree in zoology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1953, an M.A. at the University of Kansas in 1955, and a Ph.D. in 1957 at the University of Kansas, under the prominent bee researcher C.D. Michener. During his studies he participated in surveys of insects on the Bering Sea and in the Canadian Arctic, and then on a National Institutes of Health fellowship, investigated the genetics and behavior of parasitic mites. In 1959 he joined the faculty at Stanford, being promoted to full professor of biology in 1966. He was named to the Bing Professorship in 1977,[6] and he is president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University.[7] In addition, Ehrlich is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.[6]

Ehrlich continues to conduct policy research on population and resource issues, focusing especially on endangered species, cultural evolution, environmental ethics, and the preservation of genetic resources. Along with Dr. Gretchen Daily, he has conducted work in countryside biogeography, or the study of making human-disturbed areas hospitable to biodiversity. His research group at Stanford currently works extensively on the study of natural populations of the Bay checkerspot butterfly(Euphydryas).[citation needed]

He has been married to Anne H. Ehrlich since 1954; he and Anne have one child, Lisa Marie.

Paul and Ann Ehrlich have been praised for bringing to public awareness issues regarding population, resources and environment, and for making "ecology" a household word.[8]

Overpopulation debate

In December 1967, Ehrlich wrote in the New Scientist that the world would experience famines sometime between 1970 and 1985 due to population growth outstripping resources. He stated that "the battle to feed all of humanity is over ... In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now." Ehrlich also stated, "India couldn't possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980," or "be self-sufficient in food by 1971." He has been criticized as being wrong in these predictions. Ehrlich himself concedes that he did overstate his case here, underestimating the effects of the green revolution, but that part of the reason that there have not been such serious famines has been due to a reduction in birth rates that his book had argued were necessary. He also stated that in some areas The Population Bomb actually underestimated the dangers of high population - it made no mention of global warming, for instance. [9] In 2006, Lara Knudsen[10] wrote that Ehrlich's views were accepted by many population control advocates in the United States and Europe in the 1960s and 1970s.[11] She chose a brief passage from the final chapter of Population Bomb to show that Ehrlich had discussed an extreme solution to extreme cases of overpopulation: "compulsory birth regulation... (through) the addition of temporary sterilants to water supplies or staple food. Doses of the antidote would be carefully rationed by the government to produce the desired family size."[11]

In a 2004 interview, Ehrlich answered questions about the predictions he made in The Population Bomb.[1] He acknowledged that some of what he had written had not "come to pass", but went on to say that:

When I wrote The Population Bomb in 1968, there were 3.5 billion people. Since then we've added another 2.8 billion - many more than the total population (2 billion) when I was born in 1932. If that's not a population explosion, what is? My basic claims (and those of the many scientific colleagues who reviewed my work) were that population growth was a major problem. Fifty-eight academies of science said that same thing in 1994, as did the world scientists' warning to humanity in the same year. My view has become depressingly mainline![1]

Finally, Ehrlich noted that 600 million people were very hungry, billions were under-nourished, and stated that his predictions about disease and climate change were essentially correct.[1]

In retrospect, Ehrlich feels that The Population Bomb was "way too optimistic".[12] He acknowledges that he underestimated the success of higher-yielding grains, and how that spurred further population growth. But he also points out that there have been perhaps 300 million deaths since the book was published that were caused in large part by malnourishment and undernourishment. He claims that the success of the "green revolution" of the 1970s is already running into the difficulties he and others predicted, while global hunger is now increasing.[12]

Other activities

Ehrlich was one of the founders of the group Zero Population Growth in 1968, along with Richard Bowers and Charles Remington. He and his wife Anne were on the board of advisors of the Federation for American Immigration Reform until 2003. He is currently a patron of the Optimum Population Trust.

With Stephen Schneider and two other authors, writing in the January 2002 issue of Scientific American, he critiqued Bjørn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist.

Awards and honors


  • How to Know the Butterflies (1960)
  • Process of Evolution (1963)
  • The Population Bomb (1968)
  • Population, Resources, Environments: Issues in Human Ecology (1970)
  • How to Be a Survivor (1971)
  • Man and the Ecosphere: Readings from Scientific American (1971)
  • Population, Resources, Environments: Issues in Human Ecology Second Edition (1972)
  • Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions (1973)
  • Introductory Biology (1973)
  • The End of Affluence (1975)
  • Biology and Society (1976)
  • Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment (1978)
  • The Race Bomb (1978)
  • Extinction (1981)
  • The Golden Door: International Migration, Mexico, and the United States (1981)
  • The Cold and the Dark: The World after Nuclear War (1984, co-authored with Carl Sagan, Donald Kennedy, and Walter Orr Roberts)
  • Earth (1987, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)
  • Science of Ecology (1987, co-authored with Joan Roughgarden)
  • The Cassandra Conference: Resources and the Human Predicament (1988)
  • The Birder's Handbook: A field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds (1988, co-aurhored with David S. Dobkin and Darryl Wheye)
  • New World, New Mind: Moving Towards Conscious Evolution (1988, co-authored with Robert Ornstein)
  • The Population Explosion (1990, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)
  • Healing the Planet: Strategies for Resolving the Environmental Crisis (1991, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)
  • Birds in Jeopardy: The Imperiled and Extinct Birds of the United States and Canada, Including Hawaii and Puerto Rico (1992, co-authored with David S. Dobkin and Darryl Wheye)
  • The Stork and the Plow : The Equity Answer to the Human Dilemma (1995, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich and Gretchen C. Daily)
  • A World of Wounds: Ecologists and the Human Dilemma (1997)
  • Betrayal of Science and Reason: How Anti-Environment Rhetoric Threatens Our Future (1998, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)
  • Human Natures: Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect (2002)
  • One With Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future (2004, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)
  • On the Wings of Checkerspots: A Model System for Population Biology (2004, edited volume, co-edited with Ilkka Hanski)
  • New World, New Mind: Moving Towards Conscious Evolution (1988, co-authored with Robert Ornstein)
  • The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment (2008, co-authored with Anne Ehrlich)

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "Paul in a day's work: Paul Ehrlich, famed ecologist, answers readers' questions"
  2. ^ Lewis, J. "Biologist Paul R. Ehrlich. Six billion and counting., Scientific American, October 2000, pages 30, 32.
  3. ^ Tierney, John 'Betting on the Planet',New York Times, December 2, 1990
  4. ^ Paul Ehrlich gets Stanford "Reviewed" by Mike Toth, Stanford Review, March 10, 1998.
  5. ^ "Paul Ehrlich - Late Night Live - 19 November 2009". Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  6. ^ a b CV of Paul R. Ehrlich
  7. ^ Center for Conservation Biology, Staff
  8. ^ Anne and Paul Ehrlich, "Conservatives and Conservation", Mother Earth News', November 1, 1981
  9. ^ The Population Bomb Revisited - by Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich
  10. ^ Family Medicine Directory, Lara Knudsen,
  11. ^ a b Knudsen, Lara "Reproductive Rights in a Global Context:South Africa, Uganda, Peru, Denmark, United States, Vietnam, Jordan", Vanderbilt University Press, 2006, pages 2-4 ISBN 0826515282, ISBN 9780826515285
  12. ^ a b " - Story: Paul Ehrlich, the Vindication of a Public Scholar.". Retrieved 2009-11-25. 
  13. ^ The Heinz Awards, Paul and Anne Ehrlich profile

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Paul Ralph Ehrlich (born 29 May 1932) is author of The Population Explosion (1990)


  • A series of things have come up since then that have made the problem incredibly grimmer…. The ozone hole… acid rain…. Three hundred million people have starved to death since THE POPULATION BOMB was written. The famines weren’t as large as agriculturists thought they would be… due to the spread of… Green Revolution technology into the poor countries…. What makes us nervous right now is that we’re faced with again having to do something desperate to increase our food production greatly.... In 1965 we knew exactly how to do it, the question was could we deploy it fast enough—Today we have nothing left to deploy—that’s very scary.... As a species we’re not able to live on our income; we’re living on our capital, our deep rich agricultural soils are being destroyed, water is being overpumped, and our biodiversity, our life support system—we’re already far beyond what we can support.
    • KQED Radio City Arts and Lectures, San Francisco 1996
  • Solving the population problem is not going to solve the problems of racism… of sexism… of religious intolerance… of war… of gross economic inequality—But if you don’t solve the population problem, you’re not going to solve any of those problems. Whatever problem you’re interested in, you’re not going to solve it unless you also solve the population problem. Whatever your cause, it’s a lost cause without population control.
    • PAUL EHRLICH AND THE POPULATION BOMB, PBS video produced by Canadian biologist Dr. David Suzuki

The Population Explosion (1990)

  • Overdrafts on aquifers are one reason some of our geologist colleagues are convinced that water shortages will bring the human population explosion to a halt. There are substitutes for oil; there is no substitute for fresh water.
  • The key to understanding overpopulation is not population density but the numbers of people in an area relative to its resources and the capacity of the environment to sustain human activities; that is, to the area’s carrying capacity. When is an area overpopulated? When its population can’t be maintained without rapidly depleting nonrenewable resources.... By this standard, the entire planet and virtually every nation is already vastly overpopulated.

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