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Anne Howland Ehrlich
Born (1933-11-17) November 17, 1933 (age 90)
Alma mater University of Kansas
Known for The Population Bomb (1968)

The Population Explosion (1990)
The Stork and the Plow (1995)
One With Nineveh (2008)
The Dominant Animal (2013)

Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided? (2013)
Scientific career
Fields Conservation biology
Institutions Stanford University

Anne Howland Ehrlich (born Anne Fitzhugh Howland; November 17, 1933) is an American scientist and author who is best known for the wildly inaccurate predictions she made as a co-author of The Population Bomb with her colleague and husband, Paul R. Ehrlich. She has written or co-written more than thirty books on overpopulation and ecology, including The Stork and the Plow (1995), with Gretchen Daily, and The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment (2008), among many other works. She also has written extensively on issues of public concern such as population control, environmental protection, and environmental consequences of nuclear war.

She is seen is one of the key figures in the debate on conservation biology. The essence of her reasoning is that unlimited population growth and man's unregulated exploitation of natural resources form a serious threat to the environment. Her publications have been a significant source of inspiration to the Club of Rome. By 1993, the Ehrlichs' perspective has become the consensus view of scientists as represented by the "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity".

She co-founded the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University with Paul Ehrlich, where she serves as policy coordinator after being an associate director from 1987 on. She served as one of seven outside consultants to the White House Council on Environmental Quality's Global 2000 Report (1980).

She is a senior research scientist emeritus in conservation biology in the Department of Biology at Stanford University.


From 1952 to 1955, Anne Ehrlich attended the University of Kansas and performed scientific research on population biology, publishing numerous scientific articles. She began her scientific collaboration with Paul Ehrlich in the late 1950s through research on butterflies as a test system for answering key questions of biological classification, ecology, and evolution.

Since 1987, Anne Ehrlich has worked as associate director and policy coordinator of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University.

In 1994 she received the United Nations Sasakawa Environment Prize with Paul Ehrlich and in 1995 they received the 1st Annual Heinz Award in the Environment.

In 1994 and 1995, she served on a task group for academics and scientists for the President's Commission on Sustainable Development.

She has served and serves on the board of a wide range of organizations: Friends of the Earth (1976-1985), Conferences on the Fate of the Earth (1981-1984), the Center for Innovative Diplomacy (1981–1992), Redefining Progress (1994–1996), the Ploughshares Fund (1990-2003) and the Sierra Club (1996-2002). She chaired the Sierra Club's Committee on Military Impacts on the Environment from 1985 to 1994. Until 2003 she sat on the board of advisors for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

For ten years she was a member of the board of directors at the Center for Innovative Diplomacy, Pacific Institute, Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (1989-1999). As of 1988 she served on the board of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Environment, Development, and Security and as of 2002 of the New-Land Foundation.

Ehrlich is involved in the Millennium Assessment of Human Behavior (MAHB) which she co-founded with husband Paul and Professor Donald Kennedy.

From 1994 on she published a series of newsletters titled "Ecofables/Ecoscience," using science to debunk myths about humans' relationship to the environment.

Personal life

Ehrlich was born in Des Moines, Iowa, the daughter of Virginia Lippincott (Fitzhugh) Howland and Winston Densmore. Throughout her childhood she was fascinated by nature, preferring to be outside learning about wildflowers and geography. As a teenager she read Our Plundered Planet by Fairfield Osborn, Columbia University professor of zoology, member of the wildlife conservation organization Boone and Crockett Club and fossil collector. She was influenced by his critique of humankind's poor stewardship of Earth and its environmental destruction by humans.

She married Paul R. Ehrlich in 1954. The couple has one daughter, Lisa, born in 1955. The Population Bomb has been devoted to Lisa, and The Population Explosion to their grandchildren.


The Population Bomb (1968)

The phrase "population bomb" was first used in a 1958 pamphlet by advertising professional and entrepreneur Hugh Moore. The original edition of The Population Bomb began with this statement:

"The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate ..."

The Ehrlichs argued that the human population was too great, and that while the extent of disaster could be mitigated, humanity could not prevent severe famines, the spread of disease, social unrest, and other negative consequences of overpopulation.

By the end of the 1970s, this prediction and many others throughout the text proved to be wildly incorrect. However, they continued to argue that societies must take strong action to decrease population growth in order to mitigate future disasters, both ecological and social.

The Population Explosion (1990)

In their sequel to The Population Bomb, the Ehrlichs purport to describe how the world's growing population dwarfs the Earth's capacity to sustain current living standards and why overpopulation is a number one environmental problem. The book calls for action to confront population growth and the ensuing crisis:

"When is an area overpopulated? When its population can't be maintained without rapidly depleting nonrenewable resources (or converting renewable resources into nonrenewable ones) and without degrading the capacity of the environment to support the population. In short, if the long-term carrying capacity of an area is clearly being degraded by its current human occupants, that area is overpopulated."

While the Ehrlichs concede that consumption and technology must also share the blame for environmental crises, priority should be given to achieving population control as a means of stopping further destruction. "Rapid population growth in poor nations is an important reason they stay poor, and overpopulation in those nations will greatly increase their destructive impact on the environment as they struggle to develop,".

Optimum Human Population Size (1994)

In this paper, the Ehrlichs discuss their opinion on the 'optimal size' for human population, given current technological realities. They refer to establishing "social policies to influence fertility rates."

The Stork and the Plow (1995)

A well-reasoned book of how poverty forces unsustainable use of natural resources, with proposals how food production might stay ahead of population growth, together with Gretchen C. Daily. The authors look at the interaction between population and food supply and offer a strategy for balancing human numbers with nutritional needs. Their proposals include improving the status of women by giving them equal education, reducing racism and religious prejudice, reforming the agricultural system, and shrinking the growing gap between rich and poor.

This generation faces a set of challenges unprecedented in their scope and severity and in the shortness of time left to resolve them. . . . The Stork and the Plow sets these out thoughtfully [and] accurately. . . . We can all hope this urgent message is carefully heeded.

One With Nineveh (2005)

The title refers to Rudyard Kipling's 1897 poem "Recessional", "Lo, all our pomp of yesterday / Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!", alluding to the arrogance that went before the fall of historic Mesopotamian civilizations. Named a Notable Book for 2005 by the American Library Association, Ehrlich offers a lucid synthesis of the major issues of our time: rising consumption, still-growing world population, and unchecked political and economic inequity. Grounded in science, economics, and history, she puts political and environmental debates in a larger context and formulates a range of possible solutions for improving our future prospect, from local actions to reform of national government to international initiatives.

The Dominant Animal (2008)

The Ehrlichs in this popular book explore in a unique way how humans have evolved from vulnerable creatures clawing nourishment from Earth to a sophisticated global society manipulating every inch of it: they have become the dominant animal. They question why we are creating a world that threatens our own species and offer suggestions what can we do to change the current trajectory.

Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided? (2013)

This report reminds of how the collapse of numerous civilizations have, in the past, been caused by the degradation of nature, and how that process in present times makes a global collapse appearing likely. Overpopulation, overconsumption by the rich and poor choices of technologies are major drivers; dramatic cultural change provides the main hope of averting calamity.

Awards and honors

  • Raymond B. Bragg Award for Distinguished Service, Honorary Life Member 1985
  • Named to Global 500 Roll of Honour for Environmental Achievement, United Nations, 1989
  • Honorary Degree Doctor of Law, Bethany College, 1990
  • The United Nations Sasakawa Environment Prize (jointly with Paul R. Ehrlich and shared with M.S. Swaminathan), 1994
  • The 1st Annual Heinz Award in the Environment (with Paul Ehrlich), 1995
  • Nuclear Age Peace Award (with Paul Ehrlich) honored by the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation of Santa Barbara, California (1996).The awards were presented to them by ocean environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau.
  • 1998 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (with Paul Ehrlich) - The Prize has been awarded for exemplary scientific contributions to understanding the environmental consequences of species extinction, habitat destruction and nuclear war, individually and jointly, and for raising public awareness of and shaping public opinion on resource depletion and environmental degradation. "They were among the first to effectively communicate how to apply science to the solution of society's problems,"
  • Fellow of the American Academy Arts & Sciences, California Academy of Sciences (honorary)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Oregon State University, 1999

See also

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