November 23, 2010

I’m planning to write a longer piece over the next few days on the transition in biology textbook from a narrative that climaxed with the creeping danger of eugenic decay to one that warned of the imminent cataclysm of a “population bomb.”

Many of you are no doubt familiar with Paul Ehrlich’s bestseller, The Population Bomb, first published in 1968. Those of us of a certain age remember it sitting on the well-read suburban rebel’s bookshelf right between The Naked Ape and The Greening of America. (Sorry about all the Wikipedia.) But Ehrlich borrowed his title and thesis (with permission and acknowledgement) from these little books published by something called the Hugh Moore Fund.

Who was Hugh Moore? He was the inventor of the Dixie Cup. By the 1940s he was investing a fair portion of the fortune he made denuding America’s hillsides and sanitizing its bathrooms promoting urgent action on “the population problem.” Though some scholars dismiss Moore as a crank, he was a friend to many powerful people, including William Draper, Jr. and the Bush family. His little 3″ x 6″ pamphlets introduced (or at least popularized) the exponential growth curve, forecasting a world overrun by brown people and communists! By the later 1960s, this scary little graph was shooting up and off the page of the best American high school biology textbooks (the one on the right is from the 1968 BSCS Yellow Version), turning even sex-crazed tenth-graders into rabid ZPGers! (Yeah, more Wikipedia.)

A bit more about more on Moore can be found in Jacqueline Kasun’s The War Against Population (2000). I’m afraid until I get around to writing a proper article, this snip will have to do.


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