In One with Nineveh, eminent scientists Paul Ehrlich and co-author Anne Ehrlich argue that continued population growth, expansion of current consumption patterns, and maldistribution of political and economic power are impeding our progress toward a sustainable society. They believe that these issues are intimately connected with, and obscured by, current politics. They address the impact of recent events, including the Iraq war, debates over media control, immigration, and energy sources for the future. Urgent and timely, the authors suggest a number of reforms in the US government and its global governance. They call for a new non-partisan spirit to cope with environmental issues.
Paul Ralph Ehrlich (born May 29, 1932 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is a Stanford University professor and a renowned entomologist specializing in Lepidoptera (butterflies). He is also well known as a researcher and author on the subject of human overpopulation.
Ehrlich has written numerous books on the subjects of ecology, entomology, overpopulation, and related subjects. His best known book is The Population Bomb, published in 1968.
This evenings Meet the Author Program features Dr. Paul Ehrlich.He and his wife Anne Ehrlich,who is also here, have co-authored the new book,One with Nineveh: Politics, Consumption and the Human Future.In this book, the Ehrlichs look at the environmental challengesthat are associated with overpopulation,over consumption and political and economic inequity.They offer a series of recommendations for reversingworld wide environmental degradation,many of them urgent, and all of them achievable.Paul Ehrlich is President for the Center of Conservation Biologyand Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford University.He's also a professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University,where he has taught since 1966.Over the past 30 years he and his wife Anne,have been pioneers in alerting the public to the linkagesamongst such issues as overpopulation, resource scarcity, environmental degradation.They've also written on the environmental effectsof the use of nuclear weapons.Dr. Ehrlich is the recipient of many international honors and awards.He is the author or co-author, with his wife, of more 800scientific papers and articles in the popular press,and author of over 35 books including The Population Bomb,The Trail of Science and Reason and Human Natures.He's appeared as a guest many TV and radio programs and as a correspondentfor NBC TV. Please joiningjoin me in welcoming Professor Paul Ehrlich.It's nice to be introduced by an old friend,who just took seven years off of my lifebecause I started at Stanford in 1959 I need to tell youIyou're really listening to the elderly tonight,but I have a half an hour to tell you what's wrongwith the world and what we're going to do about it.And unfortunately I'm not going to be able to doall of that. But I don't think I have to,because all of you probably since you're interested thissort of thing are unlike most of our population,keeping some track of what's going on in the world.It was interesting that,I'd love to be able to come in and here the talkon Osama Bin Laden. I had some correspondence with an old friend.He's a political scientist in the University of Maryland,raising the issue of whether Al Queda as such actually exists,or whether it has ever really existed or whetherit is simply one more boogey man put upby the administration to keep us all terrorized.You know the various colors, yellow, green, red and so on and so forth.He pointed out that for instance whenever thingslooked tough for the administration they fly jet fighters over Washingtonday and night at low altitude, and the issue of course is:the middle of the night will the jet be able to shoot down the attackingAl Queda bombers? Nobody really knows.I'm going to start off, in a sense to explain whyOne with Nineveh is called Nineveh.I think there is some interwhy we got that title.And I'mthat's going to take you backto some ancient history that many of you probably already know,but I'll do it briefly. And that is there was athe first of all the true empires, was the Assyrian Empire,which developed in Mesopotamia in the area of 600 BC.The Egyptians had an empire in a sense before that,but the Egyptians had a, they got a bright idea.And that was: look instead of just farming our wonderful land andso on and so forth, why don't we take ourselvesout and find other people and steal their stuff,as well as raising our own grains and so on.And they started doing that, and they were quite good at it,but because of their religion--- those of you whohave been to Egypt know, you know all the tombs areon the western side of the Nile, and you gotto be buried there with all of your possessions---they didn't want to hang out in the other places,so they would steal other people's stuff butthey took it home with them, because they had to die in Egypt.They Assyrian's actually got a better idea.You know, let's go out and steal other people's stuff,but then let's stay there and force them to work for usand give us more stuff to send home.And it worked out very well.Their capital was Nineveh, and it became a very, very wealthy city,and they were damned good at what they did.They had for example, a very fine armored Calvary.They didn't send their troops into battle without proper armor and so on,as some other empires we could mention.They had big wheeled things that would move up againstthe city walls and they could pry. it had and iron barthat would come out---and they could pry outthey would pry out blocks until they could get in,and they had other stands with archers on them shooting downto keep the defenders from keeping their wallfrom being torn down. They were really good at whatthey did, and they produced a thriving civilization,with a thriving capital city of Nineveh,in fact that actually the Pining Gardens of Babylonwere probably at Nineveh, which was the center of all hydraulic civilization.They lived on irrigated agriculture.Now you can imagine that there must've been a lot of hubris amongthe leaders of the civilization. You don't have tohave much imagination, because when they excavated Nineveh,they found incredible palaces with incredible bas relief,so that again there are some parallels that you can imaginebetween the hubris of those leaders,and the hubris of some other civilizations.Now what were the leaders of Nineveh missing?Well one of the things that they were missingwas that they understood only a little bit of what was happeningto their basic resources. One of the problems in Mesopotamiais that when you have a hydraulic civilization,that is when you are using irrigation,the water that you are using is full of salts,and if you happen to be in a largely desert areaas you flood your fields, of course the water evaporates,and what stays behind? Salts.And going back 4,000 years so you can find fromMesopotamia tablets that would say:oh boy the fields are starting to salt upand we don't know what to do about it.And in fact, even today it's a very serious problemin the world food situation is salinization of irrigated land.Even today it's extremely difficult and very expensiveto deal with problems like salinization if you're irrigating.And a second thing which contributed to the downfallof Nineveh's civilization, along with other peopleattacking and so on, is that they deforested the Zagros Mountainswhich are the mountains in the background close to where Nineveh was.If you have huge palaces there may have been as many as 250,000 peoplein Nineveh at the peak of its power,you have to have a lot of firewood,you have to have big beams to hold the roofs of your palaces up,and they deforested the uplands which as people are finding outall over the world, leads to things likefloods and lack of a steady flow of water which is an important for irrigation,and slowly but surely their civilization went downthe drain as many others have. Now why do Iwhy do I talk about Nineveh?Does everybody know where Nineveh is?Outskirts of Mosul, and right now there aretanks of another hubritic civilization there,trying this time of course to get hold of oil.If any of you think, that we ever went to battle there over weapons of mass destruction,over bringing them democracy,over any of that crap, forget it. I have a tree.I have a treea tree? That shows my age.I have a bridge over Brooklyn that I'll sell you after the talk.You know the whole history of the west,and in the Middle East goes back to whenan admiral persuaded Churchill:you know you really have to run your battleships---this was when he was lord of the Admiral Team,back in the First World War---you really got to run your battleships on oil,not on coal. And in fact, you go back to the Sykes PicotAgreement and Red Line agreement and so on and so forth.I have a wonderful quote somewhere,and that's where the interest in the Middle East started,and that's where it continues today.We're talking about oil. Have any of you readI think Rashid is the guy's name who wrote the bookon the Taliban, the good book on the Taliban?The first map in it, what does it show?It shows thewhere the pipelines are.The quote I love came from Pierre Salinger:"Iraq was created by Churchill"this was 18 years ago, that he wrote it,"who had the mad idea of joining two widelyseparated oil wells at Kirkuk and Mosulby uniting three widely separated people,the Kurds, the Sunni and the Shiites.Guess what? So we have a situation where2,600 years or so ago there was a civilizationinvolved in building an empire,with a big chunk of it what's now Iraq and they weregoing down the drain, and they didn't realize it.Now what's difference today with our hubritic civilization?Well the biggest difference in my viewis that there is a very large and quite vocal scientificand actually other communities,telling our hubritic leaders that they're out of their minds.That the last thing in the world a civilizationtoday should be trying to do is get hold of more oilto burn, because what we're running out of is the capacityof our atmosphere to absorb the carbon,the carbon dioxide that is produced when you burn oil.If we had a sensible civilization we wouldof course be moving very, very rapidly towards---away from fossil fuels. Because the fossil fuels of courseare already getting us into very, very deep trouble.If you look back though, at the history of our civilization,over the last almost a century now,has been focused around getting our hands on oil.It wasn't just the whole Middle East divide up at the end of theat the end of the First World War.The Second World War was very largely about oil---those of you who are my age will rememberbomber raids, plus the oil fields and so on,important that coup was in Hitler's little strategy.We had this little set too, some of you may recallin the Pacific with a country called Japan.Why did we have that? One of the main reasonswas embargos on oil, and the Japanese finally choosing,deciding that they couldn't go after the Russians,that they had to move south.They're Southern Strategy, there was a big battle,as some of you may recall, in the Japanese government,before the Second World War on what direction they should go,and they finally tipped towards the south,because of course it was there that the oil was,in the Dutch East Indies.So oil has been a huge part of the human predicamentfor a long time now, and it is really wise that we all rememberthat and keep a close eye on what is going on.Well of course, for many audiences people would say what kind of---people would say: what kind of predicament do we have anyways?Look at us. We're fat and happy. We're doing great.A few of us have been killed trying to keep hold of the oil over in Iraq,but only a thousand or so, and we're in great shape.We dominate the planet---which indeed we do.You might look at the end papers of Nineveh,which has one of my favorite pictures in it of all time.It shows the night time planet aglow with lightscreated by human beings. We are the dominate animalon the planet by far. We live a wonderful life,for those of you who had dinner already tonight,ate food that probably came on the averagefrom something like 1,400 miles away. Here we are.It's dark outside but it's light inside.We do wonderful things. If it's too cold outsidewe make it warm inside. If it's too warm outside, we make it cold insideWe are an incredible species,so what kind of predicament could we possibly have?I mean, you know I am going to go out tonight after thisand get drunk on fine wines. I mean there's no predicament at all.I'm actually going to get drunk on fine wines,because I listened to Condi Rice all. And I know her well.But a little gin will help here, but well of course,there are many aspects of the predicament,and I'm only going to go very briefly through them.But one of the most important, and one of the most overlookedis, that although we are triumphant the we is a very small group.There are probably a billion and a half people live a life anything like ours.There's at least three billion people on the planetwho get along on two bucks a day or less.There's something on the order of six hundred millionpeople who don't get enough to eat to be able to do a day's work basically,and with very huge death rates and so on associated with it.In other words, the triumph is very unevenly shared,and curiously enough since the---our hubritic leaders notjust including the present administration,have been ignoring the advise of the scientific community for many decades,we now are finding out that the poor people,not only are poorer, but they are acquiring nuclear weaponsfor themselves which presents a situation that's not entirely attractive.So we have a very unevenlya very unevenly sharedpredicament, and the rest of it primarily,that a lot of our activities are wrecking our very,our own life support systems.Among other things destroying the ecosystem services,the free services which we get from natural systems,upon which our lives depend.And I'm not going to go through a long litany on that,just to point out to you something that---by the way a colleague and I wrote an op-edfor The New York Times for two weeks ago,and of course they didn't publish it---but pointing out,because they don't like to make the connections,that the tsunami was not just an act of god.Something on the order of 185,000 people died.Well why did they die? Well there are a lot of reasons.One was a huge earth quake.. Can't do anything about that,we can't squirt glucco in the cracks in the planet,and so on, but we don't have to have ten percent---excuse me, more than half the people in the world living within ten miles of seacoast.We don't have to have so many people living there,but more than anything else at the short term we didn't haveset up shrimp farms and resorts in the place of the mangrove foreststhat used to line virtually the entire Indian Ocean,and would have prevented most of the run in of the tsunami,and of course, also we didn't have to dynamite and otherwise destroythe coral reefs that also would have given protection.What we said in the op-ed wasn't we knewwhat was going on entirely. What we said is that before we redevelop these areas,we ought to ask questions like:are there benefits of the shrimp farms for the local peopleor for people in the United Statesworth the risk not just of tsunamis,but of course its classic in the Indian Ocean particularlythe Bay of Bengal, huge typhoons drive storm surgeswaiting inland. And if you have resorts and shrimp farmswhere used to be mangroves, the wave inland gets to be a lot furtherinland and puts a lot more people at risk.We need to, before we do redevelopment,to do some cost/benefit analysis.That's not considered to be important.You hear almost nothing about that in the media.Of course one the hugestbiggest problemsthat we have is the pathetic state of the media in the United States.If it isn't infotainment, it's strait propaganda.How many of you have seen Out Foxed---the little yeah, okay. Don't miss it. It cost ten bucks.You can get it on the internet. It analyzes Fox "news".It's pathetic; some of you may watch the idiot showson Sunday morning, Face the Nation and so on and so forth.How many of you---and I'm just curious---how many of you have any technical backgroundengineer or scientists? Some of you are, yeah.Have you ever heard a single coherent sentencefrom any of those people on a technical issue?At least half our culture is science and technology,our entire future depends on understandinghow to control and deal with and so on our technological side,and yet what do we hear from the Krauthammers and the Wills andthe Limbaughs and the Bushs and the Condi Rices?None of them could tell you the difference between a kilobase,a kilobyte, a kiloton, you know or a kilowatt.They're utterly clueless on what's going on in the world,and you know we have this confederacy of the clueless running our country and our world.I mean what do you expect? You get exactly, what youwell you have a totally uneducated population, or very nearly so.Okay, I'm not going to go on through a big litanyof what's wrong with the population, why we're over consuming and so on.Happy to talk about any of those things,but I'd like to move more in a direction of issues,the issue that I think is overriding almost today.When people say to me, what is the single most important thing to do,in terms of the future and saving the environment,and I, when I think about the environmental situation,it isn't just the destruction of ecosystem services the killing offof the organisms that run those services for us,like the mangroves and the coral reefs for floodprotection and that sort of thing,it also is the rapid deterioration of our epidemiological environment,not just from bioterrorism, but also as our population gets larger and larger,the odds of novel diseases get higher and higher.You don't hear much about that. I just came backfrom a two day meeting of the Board of Life Sciences of the National Academy,we meet twice a year. And once again, much of the discussion was onbioterrorism and emergent diseases, and the fact that the CDC is being destroyed,slowly but surely. The best people are leaving,in other words, we are making ourselves defenselesswhen I think many scientists would say that one of the highest odds of whatwill kill most of the people in this room, it will be a new red hot flu,or the next type emergent disease like AIDS and so on.All this has been predicted for decades, people have paid no attention.And of course where I first met Jane was on the issueof the environmental effects of nuclear war.There still is a very large chance, some peoplethink bigger all the time of a full scale nuclear exchangebetween the United States and the Soviet Union by mistake,and again if you listened at all to Condi Rice's testimony todayat least a few of our senators were all over her on the issue of the Nunn-Lugar Actand how muchhow incompetent they've been at really pushing it hard,but don't ever forget that the US and the Soviet Union are basically at launch on warning.The Soviets can't---I said excuse me,the Russians, but they're all Soviet built submarines---that now they can't afford to keep at sea,so they're tied up at the docks,tied up at the docks means that they're on launch on warning.As many of you know in 1996,the launch of a Norwegian sounding rocket to do experiments in the atmosphere,almost led the Russians to launch all of their nuclear weapons at us,and they're all still targeted at us.And they tell youif they tell youthat they've detargeted them they're lying to you.It's true in a sense that they've detargeted them,but they launch them without retargeting them,I am absolutely certain that they revert to their previous target.So basically we still have massive nuclear forcesaimed at each other, and in I think it was in 96 or 97,they got eight minutes into their fifteen minute countdown,before somebody finally realized that there was something wrong.Their command and control situation had deteriorated to the point where the Russiansthey were told, the Norwegians told them they were going tolaunch the rocket, but it never got through the system.And that is one of the things again, you don't hear much about.So as you can see, I don't think the situation is entirely cheery.I think we're in really, really deep trouble, andthe answer I think is not---and I hate to say this,and I hope none of my colleges are here---is not primarily in science.The scientific community has long known what directionswe should be moving, and that we're not moving.It has spoken out unambiguously on this,repeatedly. Let me just read you a couple of statements,that you might find interesting. I don't want you to think that thisis the just the view of one absolutely crazy ecologist, which I agree to be.In 1993 the World Scientists Warning to Humanity which was put out bythe Union of Concerned Scientists and you can find the entire statementin the back of the trailer of Science and Reason or you can get it form UCS."Human beings in the natural world are on a collision course,human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damageon the environment and on critical resources.If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious riskthe future that we wish for human society and for plant and animal kingdoms,and may so alter the living world that it may be unableto sustain life in the manner that we know.Fundamental changes are urgent, if we are toavoid the kind of collision that our present course is certain to bring about."That was signed by over 15,000 of the world's leading scientistsand over half the world's Nobel, living Nobel Laureates in Science.Same year, 58 academies of science,US National Academy, the Third World Academy, the Chinese Academy,the Australian Academy, the British Royal Society and on, and on, and on,got out a statement on population and related issues,which said in part---I didn't quote all of the World's Scientist Statement either,"The magnitude of the threat is linked to human population sizeand resource use per person. Resource use,waste production and environmental degradation areaccelerated by population growth.They are further exacerbated by consumption habits.With current technologies, present levelsof consumption by the developed world arelikely to lead to serious negative consequences for all countries.As human numbers further increase, the potential for irreversible changes of far