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5. Population and Resource Depletion
About this Lecture
In this module, we turn to the issue of natural resources and examine how academics disagreed over the issue. Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford biology professor, published The Population Bomb in 1968, arguing that the world’s population was so high that famines in the US and Europe were becoming inevitable. It became a best-seller and Ehrlich became a celebrity intellectual, interviewed regularly on TV and spreading a message of environmental doom, including the idea that natural resources were close to being used up. Julian Simon, an economist, denied these claims and challenged Ehrlich to a bet in 1980, arguing that resource prices would be cheaper (implying greater abundance) in 1990, not more costly. Ehrlich accepted the bet but lost badly. Simon’s argument, that human ingenuity in inventing new techniques and discovering substitutes for resources that were scarce, clearly had merit.
In this course, Professor Patrick Allitt (Emory University) explores how the issue of the Environment and Natural Resources were dealt with during the period 1968-1980. In the first module, we will examine how in the late 1960s environmentalism became a mass movement in the United States. We will then turn to see how politicians responded to this movement. In the third module, we will see how American views on the environment changed when the economy began to slow in the 1970s. We will then turn to look at the history of nuclear power in the US and how it’s growth slowed after the Three Mile Island accident. After this we turn to the issue of natural resources and examine how academics disagreed over this issue. In the penultimate module, we will explore how Republican and Democrat views on the environment began to splinter in the 1970s. In the final module, we will explore the policies of Ronald Reagan towards the environment.
Patrick N. Allitt is the Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory University. He specialises in American intellectual, environmental, and religious history; and has authored seven books, including A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism.
Cite this Lecture
Allitt, P. (2021, November 18). US History – The Environment and Natural Resources, 1968-80 - Population and Resource Depletion [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/us-history-the-environment-and-natural-resources-1968-80/population-and-resource-depletion
Allitt, Patrick. "US History – The Environment and Natural Resources, 1968-80 – Population and Resource Depletion." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 18 Nov 2021, https://www.massolit.io/courses/us-history-the-environment-and-natural-resources-1968-80/population-and-resource-depletion