Population Studies BY KPHIO Tracing Overpopulation Through the Historiographical Methods of Dr. Paul Ehrlich from the 1960’s to the 1990’s from the 1960’s to the 1990’s While driving through the overpopulated streets of Delhi, India, Paul Ehrlich noticed Just how many people were in the world. It took his family a couple of hours Just to travel a short distance through the city. Take into consideration that Ehrlich wrote this testimonial in 1970. Just recently the world population hit the seven billion mark and the U. S. Census bureau estimates that the population of the U. S. to be almost 315,000,000.
Paul Ehrlich is a professor of population studies and biological sciences at Stanford University. He has also done extensive research on endangered species, organisms, and the effect of population growth on the environment. Publishing his first book, The Population Bomb, in 1970, Ehrlich’s traces the history of population growth and discusses the problem of overpopulation in the modern world. In 1987, Ehrlich coauthored the book Earth with his wife Anne Ehrlich, who is also a professor of biological sciences and an advocate for conservation. Dr. Ehrlich then followed up The Population Bomb with the sequel,
The Population Explosion in 1991, which traces the impact of over population on global environment from 1970 to 1991. By comparing these three books it is evident how Ehrlich’s arguments about over population have become more relevant to modern society. Specifically, in looking at Paul R. Ehrlich’s books the Population Bomb, Earth, and The Population Explosion it is evident that he employed the methodological approaches of anthropology and macro history in order to track the modern society. Through The Population Bomb Ehrlich educates society about the growing problem of overpopulation.
The thesis of the book is overpopulation is the ause of major global problems like starvation, environmental destruction, pestilence, and war. Ehrlich combines the historiographical methods of cliometrics with micro and macro history in providing evidence to support his argument. In the first section of the book, Ehrlich’s main argument is that the population of the earth has been growing and will continue to grow exponentially. To prove his first argument Ehrlich uses cliometric data by showing past population trends. According to Ehrlich, in 8000 B. C. hen Homo sapiens first evolved, the population was estimated to be five million eople and then doubled in size a million years later. In 1650 A. D. the population doubled again to 500 million. Later in 1850, the population reached 1 billion and then doubled to two billion in 1930. According to population trends, the population size has doubled every 1,000,000 years, 1,000 years, 200 years, 80 years, and 35 years. The ultimate fear of Dr. Ehrlich is that the population of the earth will eventually be 60,000,000,000,000,000, which would equal 100 people per square yard.
Obviously this prediction is exaggerated, but Ehrlich’s data is correct in showing how population growth has doubled faster. Erhlich’s uses various methodologies like cliometrics, micro and macro history to track population growth. He begins the book by using statistical information to emphasize significant population growth statistics. The two most important calculations to track population growth are birth rate and death rate. These two statistics give the most effective view of whether a population is growing, replacing its population, or in population decline.
Further, population growth has a direct effect on food production and consumption. Ehrlich specifically uses economic history when discussing food shortages. According to Dr. Ehrlich Food shortage has been caused by the deliberate decrease of production in over developed countries. Over developed countries had economic surpluses of food that hungry people in other countries could not buy. In chapter two, Ehrlich uses cross-pollination to depict the effects of overpopulation in the future. Specifically, he uses research in sociology to provide an in depth look on how world problems like starvation and war affect culture.
Scenario 1 tells the story of an American family in a post Armageddon scenario. The earth is desolate and the few surviving humans struggle to find food not affected by radiation. Elrich’s study of overpopulation is essentially the cross- pollination of cliometrics and economic history. Overpopulation is a problem that affects all aspects of life. As a historiographer it was necessary for Ehrlich to use all these methods in order to document the topic and present his argument completely. The Population Bomb is well organized because each argument is presented clearly in every section.
Each section of the book flows into the other as each argument interrelates with the other. Also it is unique how Dr. Ehrlich makes future predictions from his research. However, if there is one rule in historical writing it is ot to make predictions. On a macro historiographical scale Ehrlich is effective in systematically tracing overpopulation from the appearance of Homo sapiens to humans in the modern world, however, he over extends himself by making predictions into the future. The scenarios that are outlined are entertaining to read, but they do not have much academic weight because they are purely exaggerations written.
It is necessary to capture the attention of the reader, but at times it was unclear if he is an activist or an over population expert. Further problems with Ehrlich’s writing are the abundance of quantitative data. Although statistics are mportant, it is more important for the reader to understand overpopulation holistically because it occurs on a global scale. His main thesis is that overpopulation is the underlying cause of the world’s main problems. In certain sections Ehrlich focuses too much on population science itself instead of the problem of overpopulation. Compared to his other texts Ehrlich’s point of view towards overpopulation is not as developed as his later works. He has enough statistical data, but his argument is ineffective in relating different societies across the globe. Overpopulation is a global problem and in order to examine the problem effectively it s important to address different points of view from across the world. As questions of the environment and overpopulation have become popular, Ehrlich’s book has some importance. I would recommend this book to undergraduate and graduate students in anthropology, sociology, environmental studies, and population science.
Moving further, Ehrlich broadens his argument to a global perspective in his book Earth that he wrote in 1987. The main argument of Earth is that overpopulation is a global issue and will take years to reduce population growth trends. Specifically, Ehrlich wants the reader to understand that humans are naturally apart of the cosystem and they are damaging this ecosystem. In The Population Bomb, Ehrlich’s argument is very focused and narrow-minded by using statistical data. However, in Earth the way he presents his argument changes toa macrohistorical view.
His view of overpopulation is more complex and continues to use history to track population growth, but he also covers perceives these issues from perception prevalent in fields like biology, ecology, sociology, anthropology, and history. In the introduction, Ehrlich’s writing is very scientific and systematic in giving a brief and concise overview on how the world and life was formed. By emphasizing the delicacies of the ecosystem, Dr. Ehrlich emphasizes the importance of eukaryote bacteria and carbon in the formation of life on planet earth.
Ehrlich moves further by explaining the human evolution cycle and how we fit into the biosphere of earth. Ehrlich shifts his methodology from cliometrics to macro history by showing that humans are apart of planet-wide ecosystem and the earth functioned naturally and even more effectively without the presence of Homo sapiens. It is apparent that his writing becomes more diachronic and macro oriented by depicting the role of humans in the big picture. Homo sapiens have had the largest effect on the environment in the period from 10,000 years ago to twenty first century.
In The Population Bomb he discusses the population growth of early humans, but not their role in the ecosystem. In the timeline of earth, Homo sapiens are new to the eco system and in our short existence we have managed to do extensive damage. The agricultural revolution was the greatest mistake to occur in the biosphere and the destruction of the environment began when Homo sapiens stopped hunting and gathering and began to farm. Ever since humans made the transformation from hunting and gathering to agrarian ommunities the population growth rate has grown steadily.
Although Ehrlich’s main point is that over population is the underlying cause for all issues, he also and technology. Since 1968, the world had changed significantly and Ehrlich’s writing changed to address the growing complexity of issues in contemporary society. According to Ehrlich, it these three issues have lead to increasing population growth in the 20th century. Ehrlich’s argument is very effective, organized, and he makes valid points. Using a macro history approach he is able to tie his argument into the development of human society.
Also by using different perspectives in anthropology and sociology he adds depth to his argument that was not seen in The Population Bomb. His theories effectively explain social behaviors like economic and monetary incentives and their effect on the environment. In this book Ehrlich uses a broader approach to history, but the reader can explicitly see the human role on earth and how we were destined by our evolution to take more from the earth then give back. It is apparent by Ehrlich’s tone that the relationship between earth and humanity has benefitted humans more than the earth.
This book is more relevant to contemporary ociety then The Population Bomb. Ehrlich’s main goal is to get people to change their behavior and create a new state of consciousness through education. Although Ehrlich effectively addresses his argument to contemporary society, Ehrlich stretches himself too thin. Earth is a global piece, but he is not able to explore each society and country in much depth. Similarly, Ehrlich has the same problem in The Population Bomb, by generally characterizing countries into over developed and underdeveloped.
Ehrlich should be specific on what countries and regions he chooses in to make his arguments and writing more nuanced. Adding to the global theme, Paul and Anne Ehrlich published The Population Explosion in 1991. The Population Explosion is the sequel to the Population Bomb and examines the effects of overpopulation in modern society. The book is structured like the Population Bomb, but synthesizes the arguments and historiographical styles from Earth. Ehrlich defines over population as the amount of people in an area relative to resources and capacity of environment to sustain human activities.
Through The Population Explosion Ehrlich focuses on the impact humans make on the environment and how n return this negatively affects us and will continue to affect us negatively in the future. Just as in the Population Bomb Ehrlich argues from an economic perspective stating that our current economic system consumes too many non-renewable resources. Ehrlich calls our time on earth the “One-time bonanza” because earth is abundant in resources, but many of them are non-renewable. Humans only have one chance to use these resources wisely because they are non-renewable.
However, the economic perspective of many humans is to use up the resources for increased production and growth. Ehrlich argues against this point stating that as society grows using up our non-renewable resources would do more harm then good. To explain human’s effect on the environment Ehrlich uses an ecological perspective. As population size grows humans will continue to destroy the land for space and food production. Ehrlich specifically blames the agricultural system as the problem of destruction and food shortage. Ultimately, food is the most important resource for humans. Negative feedback loop) To conclude Ehrlich shows how our impact on the eco system directly impacts our health and makes our situation worse. Instead of roviding an overview of the development of earth, he uses a macro history and since the agricultural revolution. Ehrlich traces the human effect through the industrial revolution to contemporary society. Similar to Earth, The Population Explosion demonstrates that population size, affluence, and technology* are the most significant factors in quantifying population growth in modern society.
Further examining over population from an anthropology perspective Ehrlich examines the migration of populations and the growing generation of youth in every society. This book shows how Ehrlich’s writing about overpopulation has progressed by effectively sing quantitative analysis with macro history and uses perspectives from different fields to make a complete argument. The argument in The Population Explosion is the most complete out of the three because it is balanced in methodology. He cross-pollinates Clio metrics with macro history to look into more complex issues in individual societies.
Ehrlich makes is the need for a “conscious revolution”. His writing has maintained the statistical data and analysis, but has gained more of a desire to provoke a change in consciousness. As humans we should realize that we are apart of the biosphere instead of separating ourselves. In this book Ehrlich organizes his argument very well. Just like the Population Bomb, his argument is very easy to follow from chapter to chapter. This book is structured like the Population Bomb and also uses statistical data to explain new terms in population science.
Ehrlich’s argument is not as exaggerated as it was in the Population Bomb and is more focused on educating the reader techniques. He captures many different audiences with different methodologies of historiography by effectively combining macro history and anthropology to cover all facets and issues of overpopulation. On he other hand, there are weaknesses to this book. At times Ehrlich’s argument is not convincing enough to the reader. Atone point in the introduction he states that limiting population numbers will not necessarily end the population problems.
Compared to the Population Bomb he does not have the conviction to persuade the reader that overpopulation is largest problem that affects the world. It is evident by Ehrlich’s work how the issue of overpopulation has become more complex as the population has grown. The Population Bomb was a good attempt to educate the public, but his research and theories were not complete. As Ehrlich wrote Earth and The Population Explosion he realized that it was necessary to give more sociology rather then quantitative analysis in his analysis of population growth.
In order, to better explain his theories about overpopulation he employed more types of historiography like anthropology and further used macro history to present his arguments on a global scale. Ehrlich’s historiographical methods presented his topic dynamically and I think more history texts could use these dynamic characteristics. In the next century overpopulation will continue to be an issue and it is very mportant to look at the research of Dr. Ehrlich so that we can keep our planet a sustainable place to inhabit. develop and go into more depth) Bibliography “A winning partnership,” Environmental Health Perspectives; no. 106 (1998): 1. Brundage, Anthony. Going to the Sources. Wheeling, Illinois: Harlan Davidson, 2008. Ehrlich, Paul R. , The Population Bomb. Rivercity, mass: Rivercity Press, 1970. Ehrlich, Anne, and Paul R Ehrlich. Earth. New York: Franklin Watts, 1987. Ehrlich, Anne, and Paul R Ehrlich. The Population Explosion. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991. Saddle River City, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2005.