Paul R. Ehrlich has been awarded the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences 1998 in recognition of contributing to scientific knowledge of environmental problems, and for raising public awareness of them.
Together with his wife Anne Ehrlich, Professor Ehrlich has been writing about environmental threats, including the explosive growth of world population, for thirty years. His publications have been a significant source of inspiration to the Club of Rome. The essence of his argument has always been that population growth and man's exploitation of natural resources form a serious threat to the environment. Ehrlich has propagated his ideas consistently and scientifically. It is his combination of the roles of scientist and activist that makes him unique. Many are concerned with the environment, but few can speak with such scientific authority. The essence of Ehrlich's thesis is that population growth and man's husbandry over the earth's resources form a serious threat to the economic options that the environment offers mankind, to the vital ecosystem services (such as atmospheric integrity, soil quality and biodiversity) and to the aesthetic values. Ehrlich has dealt with virtually every sort of ecological crisis, from declining biodiversity to habitat destruction, deforestation, nuclear waste, the hole in the ozone layer and the greenhouse effect. But Ehrlich is not content to analyse issues or publicise problems. He also suggests concrete solutions, bearing in mind the social, political and economic obstacles. Furthermore he has always been prepared to revise his projections and predictions in light of new facts and interpretations, especially when it comes to the relationship between population growth and agricultural production. Paul Ehrlich is an outstanding ecologist and visionary scientist. Thanks to his ability to communicate his scientific insights to the causes and consequences of the environmental crisis, he has raised the level of the scientific and social debate on man's relationship with the planet.
Professor Paul R. Ehrlich (1932) has had considerable influence on the development of environmental sciences. Ehrlich started out as a fundamental biologist, specialising in population biology and the relationship between plants and animals. In that field, as well, he can boast a sizeable oeuvre. Indeed his scientific background accounts for much of his credibility. He has promulgated his ideas through an impressive series of scientific publications, lectures and articles in journals, newspapers and other periodicals. Ehrlich was internationally acclaimed for his book The Population Bomb in 1968. The compelling manner in which he addressed explosive population growth and its consequences did a great deal to increase awareness of environmental issues in the 1970s. Population, Resources, Environment: Issues in Human Ecology, which he and his wife Anne Ehrlich published in 1970, is of no less significance.