Paul Ehrlich’s best-seller The Population Bomb had been published just three years earlier when John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono appeared on Johnny Carson’s show in 1971.
The prevailing wisdom of the time was that the earth had too many people and that humanity’s ever-growing population would soon destroy the planet, leading to mass extinction, starvation, and an overall collapse of the world system. The problem was extremely urgent, if not already past the point of remedy, population controllers warned, and governments desperately needed to promote contraception, abortion, sterilization to save the world.
If it sounds hysterical and unfounded to you now, it’s because it was. Four and a half decades later, with billions of dollars spent on population control and millions of lives lost through abortion or ruined by sterilization or contraception, the world population has doubled – and there’s fewer poor people than ever before and no widespread collapse.
But not everyone bought into the hysteria back in the 1960s and 1970s. When an audience member of The Tonight Show asked them how they thought overpopulation was impacting the environment, Lennon and Ono were both emphatic: there’s more than enough resources to go around for everyone, the real problem is distribution, and everything will balance itself out naturally. Lennon even speculated that overpopulation was a myth used by the U.S. government to keep people distracted from more important issues like the Vietnam War.
Watch the whole exchange here: