Too Many People?: Has the “Population Bomb” Exploded Yet?

In 1968, biologist Paul Ehrlich published the book – The Population Bomb – which became a wake-up call to the world that there were just too many people on the planet; and if something wasn’t done about it soon, there would be grave consequences.  Indeed, almost 45 years later, the world is enduring perhaps the most serious ecological breakdown in human history.  Famine, climate change, poverty, starvation, ever-increasing pollution… and species are going extinct at 1,000 times their natural pace due to human activity, with 35 to 40 species vanishing each day.

Was Ehrlich right then?

In the April/May 2009 issue of Free Inquiry – a flagship magazine of the humanist/skeptic/science advocacy think tank, The Center for Inquiry – the editors published a new essay by Erlich along with three others on the topic of overpopulation.  Only one of the four articles disagreed with Erlich’s opinion that we are at the brink of disaster.

Indeed, it seems counterintuitive to argue that 7 billion humans in every corner of the planet isn’t a serious problem, but is overpopulation the actual cause for our ecological crises?  Is disease, poverty, water and food shortages, pollution, and climate change ultimately a result of what some cynics call a cancer on the face of the Earth… Us?  Or is something else going on here?

We will address these questions and concerns with special guest Ian Angus as we ask, are there too many people? Angus is editor of Climate and Capitalism, an online journal focusing on capitalism, climate change, and the ecosocialist alternative. His previous books include The Global Fight for Climate Justice, and his new book is Too Many People?: Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crises.

Merchants of Doubt:  When Scientists Lie w/ Naomi Oreskes and Joel Kovel

Science is most likely our best way of knowing and navigating our universe. It is a self-correcting method by which bias is filtered through research, experimentation, and via objective means so that we can get as close to “truth” as any human endeavor might. But science is also a human construct, so it can’t help being influenced by not only our own human brains, but by the cultures our species develop in which science operates. And while science is our best method of separating human bias from fact, there can often seem to be a very thin line between each of these.

Today we want to focus on a relatively new book called Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway.  Merchants of Doubt focuses on how some scientists have, and still do, misuse and misrepresent science itself – for either ideological or economical reasons – in such grave areas such as concerning the effects of tobacco smoke on human health, the Star Wars missile defense program President Reagan championed, and the current concerns around global warming.

Also joining us today will be Joel Kovel, an American politician, academic, writer, and eco-socialist.  Kovel feels the rapid economic growth encouraged by globalization has caused our current, acute ecological crises. He argues that capitalism’s expansion “exposes ecosystems” to pollutants, habitat destruction, and resource depletion. He is the author of the environmentally focused book, The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World.

Santa Claus, Myth, Magic and Poetry w/ Arnell Dowret

No small factor in making naturalism as effective as it is, has to do with the very specific and detailed way that information and ideas are expressed. Clearly it’s more useful to distinguish between a person who may be experiencing clinical depression, and one who is sad about a recent loss of a family member, as opposed to using far more nebulous terms like “melancholy” to describe them both. At the same time however, might it be possible that communicating in primarily literal and specific terms has considerable limitations?

Is there something about the symbolism common to poetry and myth that is essential to convey aspects of reality that are missed by more specific and prosaic expression? And if so, what might a mythical naturalistic character look like?

Case in point: on this past Christmas Day Equal Time for Freethought played part of its most recent interview with mythical icon, Santa Claus. For the beginning half hour of this program we will play, for the first time ever, the new Santa interview in its entirety. During the second half hour we will take your calls to get your ideas on the question of finding the right balance between poetry and prose, and myth and reality.

For ambiance, this week’s program will be broadcast from a transparent laboratory cloud, encircled by a clinically schizophrenic and completely delusional rainbow.

The Willpower Instinct w/ Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.

It was an honor to have on Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University, and a leading expert on the mind-body relationship. She teaches for the School of Medicine’s Health Improvement Program and is a senior teacher/consultant for the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

Kelly is a friend of the show, I interviewed her in 2010 for her book Yoga For Pain Relief, which we featured as a premium in one of our fund drive episodes.

Her new book, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, is just out and explores cutting-edge research on motivation, temptation, and addiction, as well as what it takes to make a successful change.

It’s always a thrill to get to poke around the intellect of someone so smart, who is writing and teaching about how we can live better and more humanely. Enjoy!