Thursday, March 27, 2008

Prof. Ehrlich speaks in St. Pete

On Tuesday, I had to opportunity to hear Paul Ehrlich, professor at Stanford and author of the renowned Population Bomb, its follow-up Population Explosion, and numerous other books. His upcoming book, written with his wife Anne Ehrlich, is The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment. Prof. Ehrlich is engaging, funny, and very earnest about his concern for the planet. He began his talk discussing his motivation for the most recent book, which came about because of the lack of science in the general curriculum at Stanford. I found this interesting as Eckerd is revising its general education requirements and working to fit various literacies (quantitative, scientific, information, and so on) into its own tight academic schedule.

He then launched into an overview of human evolution, assuming that while most of his audience knew some of the story, nobody knew it all. He became the most passionate when he expounded on the current situation. The world's population, as he sees it, is undermining our life support-- our ecosystems--in favor of enterprise. One example he gave was the Philippines, where he saw rich farmland covered over by strip malls and McDonald's restaurants, but he joked, "McDonald's is what feeds the people." He cited the original incarnation of Biosphere 2, which demonstrated how little we know about planetary interactions and the impact our current actions have for the future. He emphasized throughout his lecture the importance of a global conversation on the issues and the many complexities involved: population control, overconsumption, agribusiness, water economy, and more. He lamented the fact the the richest, most knowledgeable countries are the biggest consumers (of goods, natural resources, etc.) and quipped "there is no discussion of consumption condoms."

Yet, Dr. Ehrlich remains hopeful and confident. He recognizes the adaptability of the human race and is excited and amazed by the immense cultural changes that have taken place in his own lifetime, such as advancements in gender and racial equity. Therefore, he told the audience once again, the key is conversation and changing attitudes. He ended his lecture by stating that we have to work together to ripen the time for change.

The Dominant Animal is will be released June 13, 2008.

Eckerd Library has the following books by Anne and Paul Ehrlich, as well of a number of books penned by Paul Ehrlich alone or with other authors:

  • Betrayal of science and reason : how anti-environmental rhetoric threatens our future

Call Number: GE 195 E37 1996

  • Earth

Call Number: GF 75 .E47 1987

  • Ecoscience : population, resources, environment

Call Number: HB 871 E35 1977

  • Extinction : the causes and consequences of the disappearance of species

Call Number: QH 75 E36

  • Healing the planet : strategies for resolving the environmental crisis

Call Number: GF 75 E4 1991

  • Population explosion

Call Number: HB 871 E33 1990

  • Stork and the plow : the equity answer to the human dilemma

Call Number: HB 871 .E353 1995

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