It is a fitting day to look at Paul Ehrlich's third and final scenario of agri-apocalypse from his 1968 book, The Population Bomb.
Today Norman Borlaug, probably the greatest living American, received the Congressional Gold Medal. Mr. Bourlag received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 after becoming an integral figure in the "Green Revolution."
While Paul Ehrlich was advocating forced birth control and spiking foreign food aid with antifertility drugs, Norman Borlaug was figuring out how to literally save a billion people using technology.
Below are excerpts from Ehrlich's third nightmare scenario. Ehrlich thought it would get so bad so quickly that the Pope would give his blessing to abortion by 1974.
In 1974 the United States government finally realizes that the food-population balance in much of Asia, Africa, and South America is such that most areas cannot attain self-sufficiency. American expeditionary forces are withdrawn from Vietnam and Thailand, and the United States announces it will no longer send food to India, Egypt, and some other countries which it considers beyond hope. A moderate food rationing program is instituted in the United States. It further announces that food production in the United States will be increased only so long as the increase can be accomplished without damage to the environment of the North American continent.
Pope Pius XIII, yielding to pressure from enlightened Catholics, announces that all good Catholics have a responsibility to drastically restrict their productive activities. He gives his blessing to abortion and all methods of contraception. Several cheap, long-term anticonception drugs are developed and made available for wide distribution.
Famine and plague sweep the Arab world, which, in the face of Russia's growing disinterest, is forced to seek peace and cooperation with Israel. Israel, in grave economic trouble, installs a peace government and begins negotiations. Most of the countries of Africa and South America slide backward into famine and local warfare. Many adopt Communistic governments, but few are able to achieve any stability.
Ehrlich ends the chapter by callously calling the third scenario an appealing one even though it "presumes the death by starvation of perhaps as many as half a billion people, one-fifth of the world's population." Enhrlich then challenges the reader to devise a scenario more optimistic than the last and writes that he "won't accept one that starts, 'In early 1972 the first monster space ships from a planet of the star Alpha Centauri arrive bearing CARE packages . . .'"
How about a scenario that starts with, "In 1942 a young man named Norman Borlaug received his Ph.D. in plant pathology and genetics and decided to help save a billion human lives."