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Monday, June 27, 2005

Ehrlich's Wit And Wisdom

Some words of extinct wisdom from Paul Ehrlich, the man who singlehandedly made environmental idiocy a scientifically respectable and profitable endeavor (this was inspired by this WSJ article about how Americans refused to become hysterial over global warming):
"This vast tragedy, however, is nothing compared to the nutritional disaster that seems likely to overtake humanity in the 1970s (or, at the latest, the 1980s) ... A situation has been created that could lead to a billion or more people starving to death."
[Paul Ehrlich, "The End of Affluence" (1974), p.21]
I'll say! The entire world is getting fatter by the minute - now even the Chinese are getting porky. Who will stop the weight gain?
"By September 1979, all important life in the sea was extinct. Large areas of coastline had to be evacuated... A pretty grim scenario. Unfortunately we're a long way into it already...based on projections of trends already appearing..."
[Paul Ehrlich, "Eco-Catastrophe"
_Environmental Handbook_ 1970, pp 174]
I also find that projections made from trends that haven't become trends yet aren't very solid. You see, the problem is when something that might become a trend is just beginning to appear there is no way of distinguishing a trend-signal from the noise of random variation. Make much on the stock market, Paul?
"In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish."
[Paul Ehrlich, Earth Day (1970)]
No, no, that just turned out to be the algae-eating health-food craze. Then came Atkins and matters righted themselves when people started eating animals again and leaving the algae and plankton for the fish.
"We must institute the Chinese Communist system of compulsory abortion in various forms of infanticide so that each couple will have only one child. We must hope that our government doesn't wait until it, too, decides that coercive measures can solve America's population problem.... The price of personal freedom in making childbearing decisions may be the destruction of the world."
[Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University]
You know what's really cool? The German government is thinking about imposing penalties upon childless people in an attempt to boost their birthrate RIGHT NOW. Europe's decline and fall basically is rooted in the declining birthrate. One thing I love about these types - no matter what the problem, they can always come up with a reason why the government must to force people to do something for their own good.
"....we must go back to the spinning wheel, returning to a beatific state of endless drudge labor, six days a week, and exhaustion on Sunday."
[Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University]
Tell you what Paul - you try it first and let us know how the beatitude is coming along in two or three decades. We'll be waiting anxiously in 2030 for your report. On your mark, get set, start spinning!
"The 'rich and the intelligent' must not propagate. They are dangerous because they promote overproduction [and have] the heaviest impact on the planet. The rich are the cause of most of the world's ills. Poverty is beautiful."
[Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University]
I'll say! Just ask DU - now the literate Amerikkans are not only refusing to be poor and ignorant but the sick deviants have started voting Republican! How much worse can things get? I'm sure Paul donated all the royalties from his books, plus his salary, plus his pension to someone so he could be beautifully poor. Or maybe not.
"The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world will undergo famines. Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. Population control is the only answer."
[Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb (1968)]
But it turns out that war and communism are what produce hunger and disease. Of course, if you believe the Communists should take over the world, I guess you will need population control and a belief in the beauty of poverty.
"I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000."
[Paul Ehrlich in (1969)]
Some bookie in London somewhere missed his opportunity to clean up!
"Before 1985, mankind will enter a genuine age of scarcity.in which the accessible supplies of many key minerals will be facing depletion."
[Paul Ehrlich in (1976)]
Heh, heh, heh. Indeed. Did you ever pay Simon off on that bet you lost? Yeah. That's why zinc is worth more than gold, you know? Personally I'm hoarding a pound of magnesium in my backyard. You'll never find it!

You know what's really sad? This is the list (from Wikipedia) of this man's honors and awards:
* The John Muir Award of the Sierra Club
* The Gold Medal Award of the World Wildlife Fund International
* A MacArthur Prize Fellowship
* The Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
* A World Ecology Award from the International Center for Tropical Ecology, University of Missouri in 1993
* The Volvo Environmental Prize in 1993
* The United Nations Sasakawa Environment Prize in 1994
* The Heinz Award for the Environment in 1995
* The Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement in 1998
* The Dr. A. H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences in 1998
* The Blue Planet Prize in 1999
* The Eminent Ecologist Award of the Ecological Society of America in 2001
* The Distinguished Scientist Award of the American Institute of Biological Sciences in 2001
See, in the magical world of environmental Cassandraism, you don't have to be right. In fact, you can be completely wrong over a matter of decades. All that matters is your devotion to doom. And this brings me back to Thomas Bray, writing in the WSJ about the American public's refusal to scream and run in circles about global warming:
Aside from the crucial question of whether a government bureaucracy is smart enough to do so, even environmentalists confess that Kyoto or McLieberman measures would have been a small first step in clamping a huge indirect tax on the American and world economy.

The collapse of the latest global warming boomlet is thus more than another bump in the political road. It represented the profound unease of the public about turning so much economic and social power over to Washington.
I think we can thank Ehrlich and his ilk for immunizing us against the Kyoto plague. Thank you, Dr. Ehrlich, for your service to humanity. By your dedicated and consistent service you have engendered a healthy skepticism in the American population. We are profoundly grateful to you for spending your entire life as a demo-project of environmental moonbattery.

I'd forgotten about Ehrlich. Thanks for your excellent and timely reminder--and inspiration.
What more can I add?

I spin fiber into yarn. It is exhausting, but so is reading about Erlich's flatulence about the environment. Doesn't that also contribute to global warming?

Way back in the mid 1980s, Germany was aware of their negetive population growth; that more people were dying than being born. They rewarded married couples who had children with about 700 DM a month in a benefit called 'Kindergelt.'
I'm so confused -- If "poverty is beautiful" what was he so worried about?

And where's that danged Ice Age we were promised?
Ehrlich is the anti-Cassandra. He's always wrong, but somehow some people believe him.
> Make much on the stock market, Paul?

All I care about is that he made much less money on the commodities market than Julian Simon did.

> I'd forgotten about Ehrlich.

And well you should. The more people forget about Ehrlich, the better the world will be.
The Ice Age is coming next winter. Al Gore is already slated to give a speech during the worst blizzard in recent memory consisting of "I told you so".

Cricket - Yes, but the incentive didn't work and the latest proposal floated this year is to impose higher taxes upon couples who don't have children.

J Bowen - You mean academics and the like believe him! The public at large really has become immunized to wild claims of disaster. It's not that they don't care about the environment, it's just that they are somewhat skeptical. Call it a testament to the powers of democracy.
The public, of course, is dumb as a post. Their ability to remember, integrate, and project concepts is exactly as sophisticated as other apes. Any fool could see that overpopulation of the most destructive species on the earth will result in catestrophe. 15 million people die of starvation every day. Since it's not you, why do you care? 1/3 of the world is overfed, 1/3 is starving. Why worry, you're not one of the starving?

The US midwest's top soil is so depleted that it won't sustain weeds without artificial fertilizer. You're eating chemicals, but why worry? Right?

The wingnuts criticized Orwell because 1984 wasn't as bad as he'd projected. 2001 was pretty damn close, though. Orwell predicted a right wing corporate world takeover that turned war into a corporate profit center. So far, we've had 9 years of exactly that. His dates were off, but wingnut SF writers like Heinlin predicted flying cars by 1960.

Of course, nutballs like you can pretend you saw all this coming when the economy crashes due to irresponsible deregulation or when New York and California coastlines submerge due to oceans rising. Then, you can whine "why didn't the government do something" after decades or ridiculing the government for trying to do something. Why work at prevention when firefighting is such fun?
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