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Babies are not pollution after all

Tease: Babies are not pollution after all


Intro: Welcome to “Dumb Ideas that Changed the World.” The views expressed are solely those of the host and do not reflect the opinions of this station or its funders.


In 1968 Anne and Paul Erlich sparked a global panic with their book, The Population Bomb. Based on Thomas Malthus’s theories, they claimed that four billion people would starve to death by 1990, including 65 million Americans. It was already too late to stop the massive die-off, but drastic measures were justified to limit the damage of overpopulation. They wished India had imposed forced sterilization and that America had spiked the water supply with birth-control chemicals.


Considering we had less than four billion at the time, the human race was doomed. Paul Ehrlich became a media darling, with multiple appearances on the “Tonight Show.”


Except that the massive die-off never happened. Instead, the population has doubled to 8 billion. Yet, the United Nations says humanity has never been healthier and richer than we are right now. What gives?


The reason is that Paul Ehrlich was wrong. We are not and never have been overpopulated. Malthus never said high fertility is harmful, only that nature puts constant checks on it. Yet humans were now deemed the only creature in which viable birth rates were regarded as a threat to the same species.


One of the most crowded countries in the world is England. It’s also among the richest. The 20th-century agricultural revolution lifted millions out of poverty in Asia and Africa. World-wide grain production skyrocketed even as arable land barely rose.


All the population doomsayers accomplished was turning people against babies. Birth rates have crashed worldwide, and depopulation is a serious concern across Europe and East Asia. Long-term economic growth has slumped, and the rising number of retirees has created scary dependency ratios here in the U.S.


Humanity’s value never should have been defined by how thoroughly we could sterilize ourselves. Yet this dumb idea has taken decades to debunk.


I’m Jeff Gentry


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Best reference:


Gentry, J.J. (2016). The non-crisis in human population. In M. Troy Burnett (ed.) Natural Resource Conflicts--From Blood Diamonds to Rainforest Destruction, Vol I, 6-10. ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, CA.


Dumb Ideas that Changed the World copyright 2024 by Jeff Gentry. All rights reserved.

Host of Dumb Ideas the Changed the World
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  • Join ENMU’s Jeff Gentry each week on "Dumb Ideas that Changed the World" as he uncovers some of the most important brain cramps of all time. "Dumb Ideas that Changed the World" airs on Wednesdays at about 12:45 p.m. MT on KENW-FM.This program is also available online by clicking the title of an individual episode listed below. Please send any comments or show ideas in an email to Por.Dumbideas@enmu.edu.Explore the fascinating and often surprising blunders made by influential people who should have known better. Tune in to "Dumb Ideas that Changed the World" and feel a little better about your personal cognitive function!
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