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Story Publication logo August 21, 2015

The Population Bomb That Wasn't

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From the U.S. to India, alarm has long been raised about overpopulation, leading to calls for harsh...

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Editor's note: On NPR's The Takeaway, John Hockenberry talks to Retro Report producer Kit Roane about "Population Bomb."

How will the world end? Will human life cease to exist after a massive earthquake, will the ice caps melt and flood the planet, or will overpopulation lead to the depletion of natural resources and mass starvation?

Nearly 50 years ago, the book "Population Bomb" by Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford biologist, prophesied that the "battle to feed all of humanity" was over, and that the rapid growth in population would lead to environmental catastrophe and wipe out hundreds of millions of people.

Ehrlich's "Population Bomb" wasn't a new idea—it was a recycled version of an 18th century work by Thomas Robert Malthus, whose essay, "The Principle of Population," predicted that human population would eventually be checked by famine and disease.

Kit Roane is a producer for Retro Report. He is interviewed here by The Takeaway's John Hockenberry about the group's recent documentary "Population Bomb" -- a look back at the Zero Population Growth movement and its lead proponent Paul Erlich.

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