Photo: Jim Harrison
1st Heinz Awards - 1994
Paul and Anne Ehrlich received the 1st 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 policymakers 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 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, the Ehrlichs 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.
Paul and Anne Ehrlich 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 was written at the time of the awards’ presentation.