In partnership with Pulitzer Center
Population Bomb: The Overpopulation Theory That Fell Flat
Not enough babies are being born to support an aging population in some parts of the world. But decades ago, there seemed to be the opposite problem: a prediction about a future with too many people. The concern then was that a population bomb would tip the world into chaos.
In 1968, the release of Paul Ehrlich’s best-selling book The Population Bomb and his multiple appearances on the “Tonight Show” helped spread fears that our planet could not sustain itself. Population concerns were already percolating, and Americans soon flocked to Ehrlich’s movement, Zero Population Growth, whose mantra on children was “stop at two.”
While many of his forecasts did not come true, they left a legacy that is still with us today. In the end, the story of The Population Bomb sheds a fascinating light on the dangers of prediction and the adaptability of the human race.
View full episodes at PBS.org/RetroReport.
This video was supported in part by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
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