Explain what is meant by “The Population Bomb” and to what extent do you agree that this bomb has been diffused. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”- Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist
The population bomb theory was made popular by Paul Ehrlich's 1968 book “The Population Bomb”, Ehrlich posited that that “population growth will increase unabated until a tipping point is reached where food supplies can no longer sustain the growth resulting in a devastating collapse”, characterized by famine and wars (Ehrlich- 1968). The theory bears similarities to Thomas Malthus’s Essay on Population (1798). Malthus posited that unchecked population growth would exceed the growth of means of subsistence, whilst checked population growth would keep in line both population and food supply growth. Ehrlich declares that he was seeking to “introduce millions of people to the fundamental issue of the Earth’s finite capacity to sustain human civilization and that the future of civilization was in grave doubt” (Ehrlich- 2000). Ehrlich used a scientific calculation to illustrate his claims. It centered around a general formula that could be used to assess the impact of the community on the environment, it is as follows; I= P x A x T [where I= environmental impact, P= population, A= affluence and T= technology] (Ehrlich 1968). With this formula Ehrlich was able to come to the conclusion that wealthy technologically advanced countries would have a greater per capita impact on the limited resources of the earth. The theory essentially expressed the sentiments of increasing number of academics in the 1960’s that population growth and related issues at that time threaten the sustainability of the environment to the doom of civilization. The population Bomb is not to be taken lightly, climate scientists add credence to the reality of a bomb with devastating implications for humanity, “we have grown in number to the point where our presence is perceptibly disabling the planet like a disease” (Lovelock -2007). When The Population Bomb was written, there were roughly 3.5 billion people in the world, four decades later the world population has nearly doubled now slightly exceeding 6.7 billion people (Population Reference Bureau 2008). The current financial recession and the environmental consciousness of the last decade amplify the danger of the bomb. Climate change gives significant buttress to the plausibility that this bomb will detonate eventually in a most interesting way. That greenhouse gases and emissions have caused so much damage and that this has been the result of these activities of man and his attempts to meet his growing need with such a large population is credence enough for admittance that danger looms in the levels of growth of human population. Furthermore, the threat now faced by climate change means that there is increasingly less options for sustenance from our environment.
The matter of the population bomb being diffused is to a great extent impacted by utterances of the Ehrlich own comment in recent times, like Malthus’s revised essay, the original bomb conceded that current factors might give the impression that the bomb has been diffused. The first lines of the Prologue of Population Bomb (p. 11) declared that “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.” This threat failed to materialize impart due to the Green Revolution which expanded food production, though it must be noted that there were challenges in the 1970s. Here in lies an irony the impact of the green revolution and increased mechanization in the long term, certainly over the last decade has proven harmful; aiding the reach of climate change. A...
References: * Ehrlich P. 2000. Human Natures: Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect.
* Ehrlich, P.R. & Ehrlich, A.H. 2009. The Electronic Journal of Sustainable Development The Population Bomb Revisited
* Human Development Report 1998 Overview, United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Figures quoted use data from 1995
* Lovelock, J. 1979 Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth
* O’Neill, B.C., Mackellar, F.L. & Lutz, W. 2000 Population and Climate Change,
* Pearce, F. 2008.The Population Bomb: Has it been defused?
* Population Reference Bureau. 2008. 2008 World Population Data Sheet. Washington DC: Population Reference Bureau
* US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA)
* Watt, K. Ecologist, Editor in Chief, Encyclopedia of Human Ecology
Advisory Board Member, Center for the Study of CO2 and Climate Change
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