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Population growth

ROBERT CLAY • Feb 28, 2014 at 9:09 AM

Austin Bay’s column on Feb. 4 seeks to perpetuate the myth that we can grow forever because Paul Ehrlich’s “Population Bomb” didn’t explode on time. He neglected to tell you that the world grew less grain than it consumed in eight of the last 14 years. Or that the U.S. drought in 2012 led to it being only the second year in our history (the other in the 1988 drought) in which we grew less food than we consumed. Or about the 2010 drought and heat wave that stretched from eastern Europe, across Russia, and into China dropped grain production there by 40 percent and killed more than 50,000 people. He barely mentions the fact that China, India, and more recently, Latin America, have gotten their population growth near or at replacement levels. Nor did he point out that the areas where population growth is still rampant, Africa and the Muslim world, have been the source of most of the wars, civil strife and most of the deadly diseases to arise in recent decades. Ehrlich’s book also pointed out that all agriculture depends on a stable climate and we didn’t know at the time (late 1960s) if climate was as stable as we thought. We now know absolutely that it is not. Incontrovertible evidence from ice cores, marine sediment cores and other sources have shown that drastic changes in climate (plus or minus 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit) have occurred in less than 10 years and most such changes occurred in at most a few decades. Quite radical changes in smaller, continental sized regions have apparently occurred in one year. Bay quotes Bill Gates as saying, “We make decisions on the circumstances we face.” True, but we don’t always make good decisions. To wit, I need only refer to the endless cacophony of climate change deniers who are not merely wrong — they are utterly delusional. ROBERT CLAYJohnson City

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