May 7, 2018


A Lot of People Agree with a Supervillain about Population : The supervillain's master plan echoes the fears of 'Population Bomb' author Paul Ehrlich. (Alexander Hammond, 5/07/18, FEE)

Thanos believes that there are finite resources in the universe--an appropriately illiterate idea, considering that the universe is infinite. Thus, if population growth is left unchecked, rising demand for resources will inevitably bring ruin to everyone. Halving the population of the universe is, in Thanos' mind, "not suffering, but salvation," for it is intended to avoid famine and poverty. The premise is misguided, but it's striking how many people here on Earth share it.

Thanos' concerns are identical to those of Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich, whose influential 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb predicted that rapid population growth would result in demand on Earth's finite resources outstripping supply, resulting in the breakdown of society. To this day Ehrlich continues to make doomsday predictions, and to this day reality continues to prove him wrong.

Just last month, Ehrlich stated that the "collapse of civilization is a near certainty within decades." In a 1979 interview, Ehrlich predicted that "sometime in the next 15 years, the end will come--and by 'the end,' I mean an utter breakdown of the capacity of the planet to support humanity." Most amusing, as I sit writing this article in a small café in central London, is his 1969 claim that he "would take even money that England would not exist in the year 2000."

Less amusing are the horrific real-life policies that have been implemented because of Ehrlich's doomsaying. To be sure, no policy has yet been on par with Thanos' plan to directly kill half of the population, but as Chelsea Follett has noted,

"Ehrlich's jeremiad led to human rights abuses around the world, including millions of forced sterilizations in Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Indonesia, Bangladesh and India--as well as China's draconian 'one child' policy. In 1975, officials sterilized 8 million men and women in India alone...To put that in perspective, Hitler's Germany forcibly sterilized 300,000 to 400,000 people."

Since Ehrlich wrote The Population Bomb in 1968, the world's population has more than doubled, from 3.5 billion to 7.5 billion. Since 1968, famines have all but disappeared outside of war zones, and daily per capita calorie consumption has increased by more than 30 percent. In Asia, the region that consumed the fewest calories and had the fastest-growing population in 1968, caloric intake has increased by 40 percent, faster than the global average. Since 1990, the overall number of hungry people in the world has decreased by 216 million, despite the fact that the population grew by more than 1.9 billion.

Posted by at May 7, 2018 5:44 PM