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The Population Bomb
Paul R. Ehrlich
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The Population Bomb

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  236 ratings  ·  36 reviews
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Published February 12th 1983 by Ballantine Books (first published 1968)
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Renee Bulf
45 years ago, and the exponential growth of world population has continued. 3.5 billion peeps in 1968 and it has more than doubled since then. Agricultural methods that rely on toxic chemicals, fertilizers, and genetic modification of seed stock, all dependent on petroleum that has surpassed its peak production and, if you talk about sustainability, half of the population in the USA will look at you like you are crazy. When I read this as a junior in high school in 1969, I thought that the Chine ...more
Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership
One of Cambridge Sustainability's Top 50 Books for Sustainability, as voted for by our alumni network of over 3,000 senior leaders from around the world. To find out more, click here.

The Population Bomb, as its title suggests and as the tone of writing reflects, is a warning of impending crisis. It was one of the first books to discuss the inherent conflict between growing human demands and finite resources. The most pressing concern at the time was food security. Given population and agricultur
Well the worst of his predictions failed to come true. Though the ideas were valid ones, the jury is still out on whether or not he was right in raising the alarm, time will tell...
Alan Smith
A scary and honest book, written in the seventies, but even more true today than the time it was written. Ehrlich's book reminds you that that cute, puff-cheeked lil sweetie screaming and gurgling away in the corner, that gets you all those government benefits, is actually contributing to the dangerous overcrowding that threatens to destroy our world. True, some of Ehrlich's predictions were exaggerated, and he failed to take into account some of the mitigating factors, but his basic argument - ...more
Erik Graff
Jan 20, 2010 Erik Graff rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historians of the sixties & of population theory
Recommended to Erik by: Einar Graff
Shelves: sciences
Like many of my generation, I grew up expecting nuclear war or accident, to which fears were added those of civil collapse and environmental destruction during high school. Unlike some, I sought out information about these eventualities rather than trying not to think about them and became politically active early on as a quixotic gesture in defiance of what appeared increasingly inevitable. In this context, my dad's copy of Ehrlich's Population Bomb was just more grist for the mill, a little li ...more
Matt Cyprian
I recommend this book very highly even though I am actually quite critical of it. It is by a biologist with no acknowledgements in what, in some parts, are clearly international-relations analyses. Furthermore, as a mathematician-turned-political scientist, I find the methodology highly suspect. There is no recognition of the fact that food problems are largely problems of distribution; for a social science text it is void of any cogent analysis of social and political or cultural factors; it ta ...more
Gerald Kinro
I read “The Population Bomb” when it was originally published. At the time I was a student of the agricultural sciences, and felt that Erlich had omitted and/or ignored many of the principles of food production. Still I felt that there were some credibility to his words. With an alarmist tone, Erlich foresaw a desperate future with mass starvation for millions or more by the next thirty years. He proposed solutions such as government imposed population control with the United States leading the ...more
Holy crap, I just read about the end of the world that is coming by 1977 and I'm still here in 2014.

The book, while obviously shown to be wrong, is still worth a read today as it is a classic study in alarmist propaganda.

Nothing we can do, too late, still must try. Have to act now for the children. No time for more studies, the science is in. I could be wrong, but what if I'm right? We have to act anyways.

Those are all phrases you will think about and read in this book.

Even the scenarios, if we
Incredibly alarmist, makes lots of sweeping statements not backed up by analysis or evidence, and given the benefit of hindsight, incredibly wrong in his predictions. Even so, many of his more moderate prescriptions are good ideas in any event, especially about changing attitudes around reproduction and the growth rate. In a way, it's a study in how not to be taken seriously in a policy debate, and a warning about how wrong even scientific "experts" can be.
I read in college in the 70's. I was very impressionable. I have learned to be much more skeptical. Not recommend other than if you seek alarmist propaganda.
This is the book that all of the 'thinking' people were reading in the 70s. Most of us at that time limited our families to two children to save the plant , we were all spirits of the world trying to help Mother Earth become a better home for us all. we'd had "Ban the Bomb" and the Aldermaston marches, most of us became blood donors, and make Love not War, be happy, help each other, was the order of the day.
How things change, We now have people proudly telling us that their 17th child is about t
i finally got around to reading paul ehrlich's pivotal book on population and i'm glad i read it. more than expected, it's a little more doom and gloom, but i think that's my perception mostly based around his predictions for the state of the world by 1970 and the apocalyptic ink drawings. they are so simple, but stark and depressing.

overall, i agree that his message is spot on and the highlights from the book include some of his proposed solutions. some of them are simple and others innovative.
I think this guy was a little premature with some of his predictions but overall I agree that the world needs to be depopulated if you want avoid turning it into a total living hell for all who dwell here. The problem is the only group of people who they have been able to convince to stop having so many kids are white people, who are also the only people that at least a segment of care one way or another about the environment.

I know a lot of people read the stuff from the Club of Rome, think th
I heard Paul Ehrlich on the Diane Rehm show recently, which really sparked my thinking about overpopulation as contributing to climate change, as well as a whole myriad of other factors. I'm really interested in this book as an artifact of its time, and also as how it did/didn't accurately predict the state we're in today.

ETA: I made it about 50-60 pages in before I got scared and discouraged and had to put it down. Ehrlich and his wife have a new book out - I think I'll look for that one instea
Many of his suggestions are problematic, if not downright morally offensive, and his doomsday scenario has (at least in some instances) been avoided, but his premise remains sound. We have been irresponsible trustees of the earth and it will ultimately lead to the destruction of our species. While his speculations about the future are faulty, his look to the past sheds enormous light on the underlying causes behind our reckless approach to conservation.
P.J. Sullivan
Mar 14, 2012 P.J. Sullivan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
The voice of a prophet crying in the wilderness. Half a century later, people are still sleepwalking in denial. The elephant is still in the parlor and still no one wants to talk about it! This was a very important book. I'd like to see an update from the author. You can argue with his timeline, but the fact is that the earth has added a billion people in the last twelve years! That will have consequences, and they will not be pretty!
It was written decades ago, so of course much of it is outdated and some of Ehrlich's predictions didn't come true. However, the overall message of the dangers of overpopulation is still relevant. You come away from the book knowing that there are no easy answers, but that there are at least SOME answers. Also, for those concerned, Ehrlich addresses the issues of eugenics that inevitably pop up during a discussion of overpopulation.
Lynn Ellen
I read this book over 40 years ago. It made a strong impression on me
because it addressed an issue that was new to me at the time: that every physical thing, even the earth itself, has its limits. As the years have gone by, it has become abundantly clear to me that this is true. The earth can only feed and house so many people, and after that, resources become so scarce that many cannot thrive.
Interesting discussion of overpopulation, environmental degradation, and possible policy solutions. The book is pretty dated, and it’s not without problematic aspects, but it’s interesting to see the 1960s perspective on the population debate, as well the arguments against pesticides, overconsumption, car culture, air pollution, and poisoning lakes and rivers, from 50 years ago.
Chris Gager
Well... It's certainly the kind of book I'd be reading back in 1970's time of increasing environmental awareness. My senior paper at CU was on the Club of Rome's "The Limits to Growth". Mr. Ehrlich was on TV a lot in those days. The Tonight Show for instance... I don't actually REMEMBER reading it but I probably read at least some of it. Date read is approximate...
One of the most important college books of the late 1960's to early 1970's. this one book changed the way the "World view of the human population bomb of the time.
Looking back, it is very interesting that China's population trend's changed greatly after this book was 1st written.
An important "Classic" of the time.
No earth-shaking revelations in NYC I know first-hand how much the population has grown in my lifetime alone. No real practical suggestions for how to manage this growth or reduce it either so not sure what the point of the book was. Overall = ehhh.
I think his thesis is right, just wasn't able to back it up with much. Of course, this was written half a century ago, and some of the warnings he wrote of were correct, some not (contrails do not black out our skies and sonic booms are not constant)
Donald Ball
I first read "Bomb" in the 70s. I was impressed then at the depth of warning that lie within the text, if only others would listen. Ehrlich does not come across as a fanatic which many do, but more of a highly trained realist not afraid to speak the truth.
This should be assigned reading in every high school. Why this issue doesn't get discussed much anymore is unclear to me. If the world population continues to double every 40 years, it won't be long until the world is a mean and ugly place.
Apr 05, 2010 Chloe marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: controversy
Because we need to know what our enemies are saying, what the rich oppressors really say when they suggest some may live and some must die. Ideas do not occur in a vacuum.
I read this book in high school and have never been able to completely forget it. It came to mind when I read a current mystery novel.
if any of my friends have read this and want to convince me its not a one-star monstrosity, bring it. i'm welcome to that conversation.
Mollie Rostad
A crucial message to society about the future of mankind - sent out in 1968, but still has yet to be fully apprehended.
I first read this book in college and it made a huge impression. Much of what he predicted has come to pass.
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Paul Ralph Ehrlich is an American biologist and educator who is the Bing Professor of Population Studies in the department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University and president of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology. By training he is an entomologist specializing in Lepidoptera (butterflies), but he is better known as an ecologist and a demographer, specifically for his warnings about ...more
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