Paul Erlich as an Environmental Role Model

Paul Erlich as an Environmental Role Model
While studying butterflies in the 1950s to answer questions on biological classification, ecology and evolution, Paul Erlich started thinking about global populations. Since then, he has become one of the leading experts in the world on the subject of population and the author and co-author of over 30 books on population and the environment including his most famous in 1968 ?The Population Bomb? (usc 1). Erlich was also the co-author and founder of the theory and field of co-evolution. Though Erlich has been criticized for predictions that have not come true (yet) and scrutinized over his figures, he remains a well-respected pioneer and a great communicator in political and environmental thought.
Born on May 29, 1932 in Philadelphia, he received his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 1957. It was while doing fieldwork in the 1950?s that Paul and his wife, Anne, began to think about human population, over-consumption and the use of environmentally damaging technologies. This, with their research on butterflies, reef fish, and birds led Paul and colleague Peter Raven (Ph. D.) to the concept of co-evolution. Co-evolution explains the relationships between species and how one population affects another. These discoveries eventually led to one of Erlich?s most important works, a textbook written in 1977 titled ?Ecoscience; Population, Resources, Environment? (Dossier 2).

Paul Erlich has been a member of the Stanford University faculty since 1959 and belongs to a number of scientific organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. Some of his honorary degrees and awards include the John Muir Award of the Sierra Club, the Gold Medal Award of the World Wildlife Fund International, the MacArthur Prize Fellowship, the Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Heinz Environmental Prize and the United Nations Sasakawa Environmental Prize (usc 4).

The most well known of his books is the 1968 best seller ?The Population Bomb.? This book has been widely acclaimed and criticized. The book argued forcefully that the world was headed for catastrophic overcrowding, food shortages and starvation. Many of his critics are quick to point out his predictions have yet to materialize (Bailey 1). Erlich?s response to his critics was expressed in an interview with Jim Motavalli from the Environmental News Network:
The one resource we will never run out of is imbeciles. The new book Anne and I wrote basically takes on all of the arguments of the ?don?t-worry, the environment is in great shape, all we need is unconstrained capitalism and everything will be fine? crowd and we take the arguments one after another and present the scientific community?s consensus on it. But it?s like creationism, you just can?t put some of these things down. There?s just an anti-intellectual, anti-science trend that is very serious in the United States, fed by idiots who just keep publishing this nonsense (4).
In response to the errors in his predictions he said;
The Green Revolution (which spread fertilizer technology to the Third World in the 1960s) created a small miracle in doubling and tripling small crops, but there?s no reason to think that will be repeated. There are limits to what you can get in terms of crop yields. I make mistakes, all of my colleagues have made mistakes, but one of the things that we?re forced to do is get our stuff carefully reviewed by our colleagues before we publish it so we maintain our scientific reputations. Professor Julian Simon says that we now have in our minds and libraries enough information to keep the human population growing for seven billion years. Well, I did a little calculation. The world population is currently doubling about every 40 years. But if you give Simon a break and calculate it at a millionth of the current rate, that is, doubling every 40 million years, for seven billion years there would be more people than there are electrons in the universe. I mean, this is the sort of crap they put out and yet these people are taken seriously. If I believed something like that, they?d throw me out of the National Academy of Science, I?d lose my tenure of Stanford, my colleagues would laugh at me wherever I went (5).
It seems he has no problem defending his positions. He also said this in an interview with the associated press in 1990; ?Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun? (Dossier 2).

Today Paul Erlich continues his work as the Bing Professor of Population Studies, Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford and is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford. He also works actively in politics fighting for endangered species and the preservation of genetic resources (USC4).

When I read ?The Population Bomb? ten years ago it awoke me to a new way of thinking about population and natural resources. Previously I had not given these subjects much thought. Since then it has influenced the way I think, the way I vote and my every day actions with activities like recycling, walking or riding my bike instead of driving. I appreciate the way Paul Erlich explains things in non-scientific terms. I am also impressed with his out spoken nature and activism. It is for these qualities that I consider him an environmental role model.

Paul Erlich as an Environmental Role Model 8.6 of 10 on the basis of 1860 Review.