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Paul R. Ehrlich: 120 people/[m.sup.2] on the Earth in 900 years?

Paul Ralph Ehrlich and his wife Anne have been writing since the 1960s about the ecological problems caused by population growth, and pointing out the desirability of reducing birth rates, a neo-Malthusian position. After training as entomologists, they published several books on human populations presenting the same information as preceding studies, but in a subtle and dramatic manner. It is true that in developing countries the always-growing population continues to be the main agent of environmental change (unlike in the developed countries, where this role is played by increasing energy consumption), but whether this is really the only cause of poverty and famine in the Third World merits further debate.

If growth continued at this rate for 900 years, there would be about 60 billion human beings on the Earth, that is to say, about 120 persons/[m.sup.2] on the entire surface of the planet, including the seas and oceans. The British physicist J. H. Fremlin has calculated that a multitude like this could be housed in a single 2,000-story building that covered the entire globe. The 1,000 upper stories would exclusively contain the equipment for this gigantic warren to function. Pipes, drains, wires, cables, vents, lifts, etc., would occupy half the space of the lower 1,000 floors. To sum up, each individual would only have 2 or 3 [m.sup.2] of space. I will leave you to imagine the practical details of the conditions of life in this hive, except to point out that one thing they would not lack is entertainment. Evidently, each person's movements would be limited. They could travel through the 1,000 floors of dwellings, but on each floor they could only move within a few hundred yards of the door of the elevator. In exchange, everyone could choose his friends from among ten million individuals; and, as Fremlin has pointed out, there would be plenty of entertainment, since there would be excellent world television networks, and 'it would seem reasonable to suppose that about 10 million Shakespeares would simultaneously be alive, and an even greater number of Beatles!

The Population Bomb, Ballantine Books, New York (1968)

Translated from the Catalan translation by Xavier Pamies taken from La bombe P, 7 milliards d'hommes en l'an 2000, with permission of Librairie Artheme Fayard

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Publication:Encyclopedia of the Biosphere
Article Type:Excerpt
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2000
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