Paul Ehrlich: ‘Nobody Has The Right to Have 12 Children - Or Even 3’

Pete Winn | January 22, 2013 | 1:01pm EST
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Paul Ehrlich, author of "The Population Bomb." (Stanford University photo)

( - Paul Ehrlich, the doomsday biologist who coined the term “The Population Bomb” more than 40 years ago with a book of the same name, says the world now faces “dangerous trends” of global climate change and overpopulation, which threaten our extinction.

Reducing the number of people is still the answer to civilization’s woes, Ehrlich and his wife Anne wrote in an article published Jan. 9 by London’s Royal Society.

“To our minds, the fundamental cure, reducing the scale of the human enterprise (including the size of the population) to keep its aggregate consumption within the carrying capacity of Earth is obvious but too much neglected or denied,” Ehrlich wrote.

Ehrlich spelled out exactly what he meant in an interview with a liberal blog/news site called Raw Story.

“Giving people the right to have as many people, as many children that they want is, I think, a bad idea,” the Web site quoted Ehrlich as saying.

“Nobody, in my view, has the right to have 12 children or even three unless the second pregnancy is twins,” Ehrlich added.

In their Royal Society article, the Ehrlichs, both scholars at Stanford University, say serious environmental problems can only be solved and a collapse of civilization can only be avoided “with unprecedented levels of international cooperation through multiple civil and political organizations.”

If that does not happen, they say, nature will restructure civilization for us.

But the Ehrlichs question whether reducing the population can be accomplished given “great social and psychological barriers” that, they say, are facing us -- including religion.

“This is especially true because of the ‘endarkenment’-- a rapidly growing movement towards religious orthodoxies that reject enlightenment values such as freedom of thought, democracy, separation of church and state, and basing beliefs and actions on empirical evidence,” the Ehrlichs wrote.

“They are manifest in dangerous trends such as climate denial, failure to act on the loss of biodiversity and opposition to condoms (for AIDS control) as well as other forms of contraception.

“If ever there was a time for evidence-based -- as opposed to faith-based -- risk reduction strategies, it is now,” the Ehrlichs wrote.

Ehrlich, who is Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford, did not provide comment to for this story. The Ehrlichs' article, “Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?” is published in Proceedings B of the Royal Society.

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