1975: Ehrlich Slams Cheap Electricity, Modern Agriculture, Medicines, Pesticides and Cars.

As noted in a previous post, there’s a lot of things Paul Ehrlich doesn’t like. Capitalism, free markets, people breeding, economic growth. Now an article by the good Doctor Ehrlich himself has been unearthed, in which he lists more things that really tick him off.

First of all, nuclear power. Not just because of the dangers, which Ehrlich says are manifold, but for a more profound reason – but because he dreads the idea of cheap, plentiful energy for the world:

We contend that the position of the nuclear promoters is preposterous beyond the wildest imaginings of most nuclear opponents, primarily because one of the purported “benefits” of nuclear power, the availability of cheap and abundant energy, is in fact a liability.

In fact, with cheap, abundant energy, the attempt would be made to pave, develop, and exploit every last bit of the planet – a trend that would inevitably lead to the collapse of the life-support systems on which civilization depends.

The Spokesman-Review, June 1975. Energy Overabundance.

When people like Ehrlich say that renewable energy can supply all the electricity we need, they envisage very, very small needs.

Ehrlich was especially annoyed at those who believed that human ingenuity, science and technology could provide solutions to the crisis. He cited some examples of technologies which had only made things worse:

Prime examples are the “green revolution” (which is contributing to the destruction of genetic diversity in crops) , the wide use of antibiotics and chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides, our dependence on the automobile for personal transportation, and not least of all, nuclear power.

The Spokesman-Review, June 1975. Energy Overabundance.

What kind of a person worries about the world having cheap and abundant energy?

8 responses to “1975: Ehrlich Slams Cheap Electricity, Modern Agriculture, Medicines, Pesticides and Cars.

  1. A lot of the people who blithely sign up for AGW haven’t examined what it means in terms of life changes. They half listen to Ehrlich and imagine a bucolic world of hand made goods and vegetables straight from the garden. They never ask if they’d actually like that world or even if it’s possible.

    At the back of everything is their conviction that if only everyone pulled together, a new, clean, safe unlimited energy source will be invented. That way they wouldn’t have to change their lives. Many are convinced that oil companies have already silenced such marvels.

    A realist understands that invention doesn’t work that way and if will power and the promise of riches were all it took for success, we’d be able to eat as much as we wanted, pop a pill and never be over weight.

  2. I’d love to be able to claim this for my own, but someone else said it first:

    “Paul Ehrlich – the gift that keeps on giving.”

    Keep ’em coming… Everybody needs to know this stuff.

  3. Thanks. A true enemy of humanity. Will archive this.

  4. Did anybody catch the article right above the Ehrlich article: Here’s an interesting excerpt (note, emphasis added and there could be a few typos…):

    To limit growth through the curtailment of the use of electric energy strikes him as a little short of insanity.
    The extremist proponents of a stop-growth fantasy, Lilienthal said in an interview the other day on his return from a working trip to Iran, “have spread fear, baseless fear. We have by no means exhausted – hardly touched — the ability of the human mind to devise new answers to old problems.
    Much of our current economic problems goes back a few years to when we permitted some highly theoretical people to stick figures into computers and make scare headlines about an imaginary limit to growth.
    These were the people who came forward with the notion that we gain stability and advance humanitarian ends and protect the environment by denying a basic principle of life: Growth.”

  5. Paul Ehrlich also said “Giving society cheap, abundant energy… would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun”.

    Basically, I think what underlies his philosophy has been fear – of humanity, of the unknown, of catastrophe, of nature, of the future.

    “I’m scared,” he is said to have written in the 1970 Earth Day issue of Look Magazine. “I have a 14-year-old daughter whom I love very much. I know a lot of young people, and their world is being destroyed.

    “My world is being destroyed. I’m 37 and I’d kind of like to live to be 67 in a reasonably pleasant world, and not die in some kind of holocaust in the next decade.”

    I think he’s now 78.

    Good article, and I like the Lilienthal article as well, mentioned by Kramer.

  6. What kind of person worries about cheap energy? He explains it right there- we would subsequently destroy the planet by covering everything in asphalt and using all the planet’s resources to make crappythings for people to buy– we’re already doing this.

    You think humans have self-control? Yeah right.
    You think humans can see the big picture and impose limits based on preserving natural systems? Yeah right.

    People like you are what’s wrong with this planet.

    • Linz –

      Right back atcha. All the indications are that past a certain level of prosperity fertility starts to fall as people do more with their lives than simply breed children to work on the land and support them in their old age. Cheap energy is one of the quickest ways to achieve this. There will be fewer people, but better fed and more comfortable, but i guess you don’t care about that (i assume you’re writing from your centrally heated house, huh, linz?). Never mind those guys over in the third world, ey? Let them eat cake.

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