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K-State Today

February 23, 2012

Population expert Paul Ehrlich to give 'Can We Save The World?' lecture

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

With 7 billion people living on Earth, can we save the world from overpopulation, environmental degradation and mass starvation?

Paul Ehrlich, president of the Center for Conservation Biology and Bing professor of population studies at Stanford University and a National Academy of Sciences member since 1985, aims to answer that question at Kansas State University for the Provost's Excellence in Scholarship Lecture at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 7, in Forum Hall at the K-State Student Union.

The lecture, "Population, Environment and The Millennium Alliance for Humanity in the Biosphere: Can We Save the World?" will provide information on the human population's demands on the Earth's resources.

Ehrlich is an expert in population biology and is the co-founder of the field of coevolution. He is best known for his book, "The Population Bomb." Written in 1968, the book warned that the human population would surpass the world's ability to produce enough food to sustain that population, leading to mass starvation. The book has been a topic of popular debate and conversation since that time.

"'The Population Bomb' was a very influential book because it brought out the idea to the general public that the population was growing so fast it could surpass the ability of Earth to support humanity," said Walter Dodds, university distinguished professor of biology and Ehrlich's university host during his visit.

Although some of the scenarios from the book didn't happen -- such as a minimum of 10 million people, most of them children, would starve to death during each year of the 1970s -- Dodds said some of the fundamental ideas Ehrlich mentioned did, including global affects on our environment.

In addition to his lecture, Ehrlich will meet with Students for Environmental Action and the university distinguished professors.

Ehrlich's work has been published in many high-profile journals, including Science, Scientific American and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He has studied the dynamics and genetics of natural populations of checkerspot butterflies and has been an advocate for environmental ethics.

Ehrlich received his master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Kansas in 1955 and 1957, respectively. He has won numerous major prizes, including a MacArthur Prize Fellowship; the Crafoord Prize, awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and considered the highest award given in the field of ecology; Eminent Ecologist Award of the Ecological Society of America, 2001; Distinguished Scientist Award of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, 2001; and the Ramon Margalef Prize in Ecology and Environmental Sciences of the Generalitat of Catalonia, 2009.

The Provost Lectures on Excellence in Scholarship series began in 2005 to foster excellence by bringing individuals to campus who have achieved special recognition and prominence in their chosen fields of endeavor and to enhance the interaction of these people with members of the university community. Ehrlich's lecture is sponsored by the Division of Biology, university distinguished professors and the office of the provost. It will be televised on cable channel 8, and video recordings will be available for checkout from Hale Library.