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The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment by Paul Ehrlich

If you've seen the population growth charts, you are probably as concerned as I am about the impact of more people and more stuff they want as they urbanize.

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Paul Ehrlich published a book about the "population bomb" many years ago...and was ridiculed because the world was doing just fine, thank you. But now his scientific theory sounds much more real. His new book presents the human population dilemma in today's terms and is certainly worth reviewing as we face climate change and related crises.

Urbanization as a Population Management Challenge

A central problem of the human predicament discussed in The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment by Paul Ehrlich is that "we’re small-group animals trying to live in ever more gigantic groups - and not doing very well at it.

"If catastrophe can be avoided, we’re stuck with gigantic groups for a century or more, and very large groups "forever." It therefore behooves humanity to start asking itself how to maintain the small group coherence and interests that make people comfortable while greatly damping down intergroup competition and substantially enhancing the intergroup cooperation desperately needed to solve the human predicament.

Correlating Birthrates and Death Rates

"But given the horrendous potential consequences of the explosion of human numbers following reduction of the death rate, we must pay equivalent attention to reducing the birthrate as well. As been done in many family planning programs, the happy family should be promoted as one that limits its numbers. But the change should be in the motivation. Traditionally the small family was supposed to supply a higher standard of living - including more stuff for each individual.

"The new approach could be to promote it as a multigenerational unit that in each generation limits its size in order to maximize the chances of each following generations retaining a happy, sustainable life style."

To move in that direction, Ehrlich recommends that humanity must:

  • Rapidly expand programs to educate and give job opportunities to women.
  • Make effective contraception universally available.
  • Develop public support of population policies.

"The goal must be to halt population increase as soon as humanely possible, and then start reducing human numbers until births and deaths balance at population size that can be maintained without irreparable damage to our life-support systems."

Read more of Paul Ehrlich's blog at Island Press

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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