Guest Speaker Paul Ehrlich podcast now available

The podcast for the presentation by Professor Paul Ehrlich is now available for download.

Prof. Paul R. Ehrlich

Prof. Paul R. Ehrlich

The Environment Institute and the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the Australian National University presented Professor Paul Ehrlich, Bing Professor of Population Studies in the department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University on Thursday 21 March 2013 in Canberra.

The presentation Avoiding a collapse of civilisation – our chances, prospects and pathways forward discussed population growth and its effect on the environment.

Paul Ehrlich is the Bing Professor of Population Studies in the department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University, president of Stanford’s Centre for Conservation Biology and Adjunct Professor, University of Technology, Sydney. By training he is an entomologist specializing in Lepidoptera (butterflies), but he is also a prominent ecologist and demographer. Ehrlich is best known for his dire warnings about population growth and limited resources. He became well-known after publication of his controversial 1968 book The Population Bomb.

Listen to the presentation.


Environmental problems have contributed to numerous collapses of civilizations in the past. Now, for the first time, a global collapse appears possible and at the same time avoidable. Population growth supercharged by significantly increasing consumption interacting with our choices of technologies are major drivers. Dramatic cultural change provides the main hope of averting calamity.

Paul and Anne Ehrlich have written a paper on how humanity’s global civilisation is threatened with collapse by an array of environmental problems. In this special presentation, Professor Ehrlich gave a talk about his recent conclusions.

Professor Ehrlich was  joined by leading ecological scientists to participate in an in-depth panel discussion. The panel extended and discussed Professor Ehrlich’s topics as they relate to sustainability politics in Australia, broaching controversial topics from food and energy supply to the politics of greed. How much scientific evidence underlies our national decision-making?

The panel included Professor Corey Bradshaw from the Environment Institute, Professor David Lindenmayer from ANU, and Professor Graham Pyke from University of Technology Sydney. Professor Stephen Dovers, Director of the Fenner School of Environment, chaired the panel session.

Sleepwalking to Catastrophe

An environmentalist with a keen interest in the relationship between climate change, population growth and economics, Fiona Heinrichs, author of Sleepwalking to Catastrophe: ‘Big Australia’, Immigration, Population Expansion and the Impossibility of Endless Economic Growth in a Finite World, invites Bernard Salt, writer of interactions between the Baby Boomer Generation, Generation X and Generation Y, to respond to her critique of his view between the Baby Boomers and Gen Y, as well as between the “‘Big Australia’ growthers and those supporting for ecological reasons, a smaller population”.

Fiona Heinrichs

Fiona talks about her challenge to debate pro-growthers, proud of their stance, yet intimidated by the opposing perspective of a 23 year old student, in particular referring to Salt’s article ‘Gen Y Grows Up With Satirical Tale’, which talks about Gen Ys having an ‘increasingly indulged childhood’, however Fiona debates “it is the big business elites who have actually caused the most damage to the Earth through their greed, affluence and extravagance. It is my generation and those to follow, if we are lucky, who will have to suffer the ill-effects of climate change, peak oil and the other horsemen of the ecological crisis. Ultimately it is Gen Y who will have to contest against the conditions of decline, which the previous generations leave behind and pick up the pieces of civilisation.”   Read the full article from Fiona here.

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