Senator John Heinz

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The Heinz Awards

1995

Paul + Anne Ehrlich

Paul and Anne Ehrlich receive the Heinz Award in the Environment in recognition of their thoughtful study of difficult environmental issues, their commitment to bringing their findings to the attention of policy makers and the public, and their willingness to suggest solutions.

Paul and Anne Ehrlich have been producing important scientific research for over three decades. Distinguished by their passionate determination to communicate their findings to non-scientific audiences, they have long seen it as their responsibility to alert humanity to the dangers of ecological carelessness and arrogance. This perspective, uncommon among scientists, has made them the target of often harsh criticism - criticism they accept with grace as the price of their forthrightness.

They are also distinguished by their willingness to offer and seek solutions to the problems they identify. Their prescriptions, sometimes misrepresented as draconian, are rooted in the same Judeo-Christian principles that are the source of the Ehrlichs' profound ethic of stewardship. It would be difficult to name any other couple who have made such a long-standing and substantive contribution to scientific and policy understanding of population, environment, and resource issues.

As scientists, authors and educators, Paul and Anne Ehrlich have for 30 years devoted themselves to enhancing public understanding of a wide range of environmental issues, including conservation biology, biodiversity and habitat preservation.

The basis of the Ehrlichs' work has always been their science, and they have compiled an important body of scientific research over the years. But it is their environmental advocacy - particularly in the area of population - for which the Ehrlichs are most well known. Paul Ehrlich made a memorable debut on the world scene with the publication of his 1968 book, The Population Bomb, warning that the Earth's resources could not indefinitely support the planet's growing population. In a 1990 sequel, The Population Explosion, Paul and Anne Ehrlich provided an unflinching update.

Setting forth challenging but prescient work was to become a hallmark of the Ehrlichs' careers. Several decades ago, they did it again, becoming the first to raise the alarm about a possible resurgence of infectious diseases - another controversial theory now taken seriously.

Paul Ehrlich, currently Bing Professor of Population Studies in the Department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University, and Anne Ehrlich, senior research associate in the biology and policy coordination center founded by the couple at Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology, have never suggested that population issues represent the whole of the planet's problems. In fact they have been forceful advocates for broadening the agenda of the environmental movement to include such issues as biodiversity, poverty, consumption, carrying capacity, energy supplies, agriculture and food, global warming, nuclear weapons, international economics, environmental ethics, and sustainable development.

The Ehrlichs have displayed rare leadership in seeking to translate meaningful science into workable policy. Far from being prophets of doom, they are spirited optimists, whose unrivaled contributions have flowed from a belief that the future is still ours to make.

Note: This profile is excerpted from the commemorative brochure published at the time of the awards' presentation.


UPDATES SINCE RECEIVING THE HEINZ AWARD

July 2006 - Nearly 500 bird species worldwide have become extinct in the last five millennia because of human activities according to a new report co-authored by Paul Ehrlich. Ten additional species will go extinct each year based on these trends unless society changes its behavior. - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

May 2004 - The Ehrlichs together author One with Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Future. The textbook concerns issues of population growth and control.

February 2003 - Paul Ehrlich's article entitled "Genes and cultures: What creates our behavioral phenome?" appears in the science journal, Current Anthropology. The article provides "a detailed critique of genetic determinism" and describes many basic and accepted assumptions about what characteristics are a result of DNA and which are not. - Genomics & Genetics Weekly

July 2001
- Paul Ehrlich receives the Eminent Ecologist Award from the Ecological Society of America for his revolutionary contributions to the science world. - Science Blog

May 2001 - Paul Ehrlich authors Human Natures: Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect, a book that aims "to explore for nonscientists the range of what we know about human evolution, both biological and cultural." - American Scientist

March 2001 - Paul Ehrlich is honored with the Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Institute of Biological Sciences. The award goes to Ehrlich for his pioneering efforts to inform the public of population concerns. - American Institute of Biological Sciences

June 1999 - Paul Ehrlich receives the Blue Planet Prize, "the world's most lucrative environmental award." The prize, which consists of a $422,000 grant from the Asahi Glass Foundation, goes to Ehrlich "for his research on solutions to pressing environmental problems." Ehrlich plans to use the money to continue current research he is conducting in Costa Rica. - The San Francisco Chronicle

June 1998 - The Ehrlichs are honored with the $200,000 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, "an award for environmental science, energy, and medicine."

October 1996 - The Ehrlichs release their latest book entitled Betrayal of Science and Reason: How Anti-Environmental Rhetoric Threatens Our Future. The book is intended to honestly make the public aware of just "how much damage industrial emissions, pollutants and synthetic products are doing to the environment." - The Washington Post

August 1996 - Paul Ehrlich appears in a television special called "Paul Ehrlich and the Population Bomb". The special details Ehrlich and his decades worth of predictions and warnings about overpopulation and overconsumption in our world today. - The New York Times
Paul + Anne Ehrlich