The world produces a lot of food, but it is not produced equally. Agriculturally rich areas like American and Europe can fret about whether natural or synthetic toxins are on their food, and how much water a toilet flush should be, while a billion people elsewhere have inconsistent diets.
Paul Ehrlich, legendary doomsday prophet, now has a new concern that will kill the planet if it is not addressed - equal rights for women.
To feed an estimated 9.6 billion people by 2050 (other estimates are that we will be in population decline by then) is not difficult. America alone is producing far more food on far less land than when Ehrlich was predicting global starvation in the late 1960s. Instead of discussing the science issues, Ehrlich wants to talk about women. Namely the rights of women to have fewer babies.
Ehrlich's talk at the AAAS meeting is based on a recent Proceedings of the Royal Society commentary, "Can a Collapse of Global Civilization Be Avoided?" that Ehrlich and his wife Anne Ehrlich, also a Stanford biologist, wrote.
They call for improving agricultural practices, replacing fossil fuels and giving women equal rights.
"There is widespread agreement that the evolving food situation is becoming very serious," Ehrlich said. "But virtually all such warnings, in my view, underestimate the potential impacts of climate disruption on the food system, the way the energy situation may negatively interact with producing enough food and the progressive ecological deterioration of the agricultural enterprise. Perhaps most important, virtually all analyses simply treat the need to feed an additional 2.5 billion people by 2050 as a given."
Instead, Ehrlich says, there should be more focus on slowing population growth. "A program of improving the status of women everywhere and supplying all sexually active people with access to modern contraception and back-up abortion would be relatively quite cheap and would greatly reduce the numbers that must be fed."
At least he is not advocating forced sterilization, forced abortion and a global government to enforce those things, like he was in "Ecoscience", his 1977 book with current Obama science czar Dr. John Holdren.