MSM Shuns Embarrassing 'The Population Bomb' Anniversary

June 29th, 2008 6:21 PM

Today is the official publication date of The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment by Paul and Anne Ehrlich. The release of this book was timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the publication of Paul Ehrlich's once exceedingly popular "The Population Bomb" in 1968. If you expect to see much about either of these books in the mainstream media, you are in for a big disappointment. The MSM is avoiding the whole subject of Paul Ehrlich and his apocalyptic "The Population Bomb" like the plague nowadays. The reason is probably because it might draw embarrassing attention to the fact that apocalyptic visions, despite their popularity at one time such as the current global warming alarmism, are usually proven to be flat out wrong. Such was the case with Paul Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb" which the Intercollegiate Studies Institute ranked as one of the 50 Worst Books of the 20th century due to its many errors. Here are some BrothersJudd.Com book review excerpts of The Population Bomb:

Predictions like Ehrlich's are based on an especially specious methodology.  He has taken a snapshot in time and projected it forward without trying to place it in context.  Yes, world population has risen pretty rapidly in the industrial era, thanks to advances in medicine, food production, etc.  But as countries have reached industrial plateaus, they have tended to experience a flattening or even a decline in population growth.  Broaden your perspective a little and it seems obvious that he is focussed on a startling, but more than likely temporary rise in population.  It's as if he's chosen one moment in a car ride from New York to California and tried to generalize from it about the whole trip.  If he's chosen a moment when the car is at cruising speed and concluded that the car was generally traveling 55 miles per hour, he's not too far wrong.  But if he's chosen a moment when the car was accelerating to get on the highway and concluded that the car just kept going faster and faster the whole trip, then he's obviously made a tremendous error.  In this instance, Ehrlich seems to have complete tunnel vision; he can't see past this one moment of population acceleration.  This lack of perspective alone is enough to delegitimize all of the conclusions that he draws.

In addition, those who make such predictions are not generally impartial observers.  Rather, they are likely to have a vested interest in the scariness of their own prediction.  I mean, is it more likely that a population specialist will come to the conclusion that there is a crisis which requires a massive response and loads of power, time and money or that he will conclude that population problems are pretty much self regulating and no response is required?  We all know the answer to that; the next bureaucrat who says that the problem he's working on is solved, or that it is unresponsive to human intervention, will be the first.  These institutional survival imperatives make it extraordinarily unlikely that the very folks who are employed to study a "problem" will ever find anything other than bad news.

Further prejudicing their findings is the fact that such studies are typically generated by people or entities with a particular political agenda and, thus, their own vested interest in the outcome.  Let's face it, it's not like money magically appears to fund population studies (or environmental studies or whatever).  The mandate and the money for such work probably comes from a political body or an individual with preexisting concerns about the issue and you don't have to be as cynical as I am to assume that researchers will tend to find results that confirm the beliefs of their sponsors.

The forgoing reasons for being dubious about this kind of crisis prediction are fairly benign and understandable, if still troubling, but there are also less charitable reasons to harbor suspicion.   These types of predictions all share one important and disturbing characteristic; they all assume that the pending disaster can only be averted if bureaucratic elites are given the power to make decisions, often life or death decisions, for the rest of us.  In this case, Ehrlich wants to decide quite literally who will live and who will die. 

Does this not sound exactly like current global warming alarmism? Perhaps the MSM is too embarrassed for the rest of us to make that connection. In the case of "The Population Bomb" the media dropped its public hyping of that book after Paul Ehrlich lost a bet in a most humiliating manner to libertarian Julian L. Simon. Here is how the Simon-Ehrlich wager was described in Wikipedia:

Simon had Ehrlich choose five of several commodity metals. Ehrlich chose 5 metals: copper, chromium, nickel, tin, and tungsten. Simon bet that their prices would go down. Ehrlich bet they would go up.

The face-off occurred in the pages of Social Science Quarterly, where Simon challenged Ehrlich to put his money where his mouth was. In response to Ehrlich's published claim that "If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000" — a proposition Simon regarded as too silly to bother with — Simon countered with "a public offer to stake US$10,000 ... on my belief that the cost of non-government-controlled raw materials (including grain and oil) will not rise in the long run." You could name your own terms: select any raw material you wanted — copper, tin, whatever — and select any date in the future, "any date more than a year away," and Simon would bet that the commodity's price on that date would be lower than what it was at the time of the wager... Ehrlich and his colleagues picked five metals that they thought would undergo big price rises: chromium, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten. Then, on paper, they bought $200 worth of each, for a total bet of $1,000, using the prices on September 29, 1980, as an index. They designated September 29, 1990, 10 years hence, as the payoff date. If the inflation-adjusted prices of the various metals rose in the interim, Simon would pay Ehrlich the combined difference; if the prices fell, Ehrlich et al. would pay Simon... Between 1980 and 1990, the world's population grew by more than 800 million, the largest increase in one decade in all of history. But by September 1990, without a single exception, the price of each of Ehrlich's selected metals had fallen, and in some cases had dropped through the floor. Chrome, which had sold for $3.90 a pound in 1980, was down to $3.70 in 1990. Tin, which was $8.72 a pound in 1980, was down to $3.88 a decade later.

As a result, in October 1990, Paul Ehrlich mailed Julian Simon a check for $576.07 to settle the wager in Simon's favor.

So do we have to wait years into the future to prove the global warming alarmists wrong? Well, no. Take the case of the leading global warming alarmist, James Hansen. In 1988 Hansen predicted more frequent severe droughts in the Midwest. How accurate did Hansen turn out to be? Here is what was reported by National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration:

From May through September of 1993, major and/or record flooding occurred across North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Fifty flood deaths occurred, and damages approached $15 billion. Hundreds of levees failed along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.

And if you've noticed the severe flooding recently in the Midwest, Hansen's track record of climate prediction fallibility continues. The MSM have yet to shun mention of Hansen like they have Ehrlich and "The Population Bomb."

So what has Paul Ehrlich, whom the media has tossed down the memory hole, been doing recently? Why global warming alarmism of course.