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Culture of Empathy Builder:  Paul Ehrlich

 Paul R. Ehrlich Empathy Expert Big Page: Paul Ehrlich
Biologist and educator, Professor of Population Studies in Biological Sciences at Stanford University and president of Stanford's Center for Conservation Biology.
The Population Bomb.
Author: Humanity on a Tightrope: Thoughts on Empathy, Family, and Big Changes for a Viable Future,

Humanity on a Tightrope: Thoughts on Empathy, Family, and Big Changes for a Viable Future,
by Paul Ehrlich and Robert Ornstein.

Table of Contents

  • Section 1 Connecting with others: The Evolution of Humanity, Families and Empathy

    • Chapter 1:  On a Tightrope

    • Chapter 2:  Empathy, And "Us" Family Members versus "Them"

    • Chapter 3:  The Seeds Of Family Values And How They Sprouted

    • Chapter 4:  The Evolution of "Them"

  • Section 2:  Changing Our Mind and Changing the World we Made

    • Chapter 5:  The Neuropsychology Of Getting To "Us": The More Alike The More We Like

    • Chapter 6:  It's All Us Now: Closing the Culture Gap and Building a Global Family

    • Chapter 7:  The Beginnings of a New Stage in History

    • Chapter 8:  Getting To "Alike" One Another

    • Chapter 9:  Revitalizing Religious Empathy and Staying on the Tightrope

  • 12:  Appendix Going Further: Reading, Informing, Acting

  • 13:  Bibliography

  • 14:  Acknowledgments


2011-02-12 -  Paul Erhlich interview- Humanity on a tightrope
 Radio Ecochock - audio (20 min). and transcripts

"Humans were a "small group animal." We are hard-wired to know and operate in groups of less than 150 people. Within that group, we also have nerves in the brain which allow us to more or less know how the others think. This empathy may be unique among the animals, with the ability to "step into the other person's shoes".  Erhlich and Ornstein argue this empathy trait must be extended to include the whole human family, if we are to survive.

What are the signs that empathy is growing?... How could we translate your book to develop what I would call "empathy activism"? How do we make this work?...

And yet we have these global problems, and you are suggesting we need global empathy. Are they contradictory moves?...

PRE: No, they aren't. It's gotta be a combination. Because, first of all, we can be empathetic with more people. We actually can't avoid being empathetic to anybody we are exposed to....

So we have to spread our empathy. It doesn't mean we lose our empathy for people that we know even more personally - we just spread it around...."


  • Teach people how the world works. in education system

  • Empathy activism

    • get people together - organize

      • scholars

      • general public

    • need rapid response team

      • MOB network

      • rapid change can happen with right incentives

  • Need to study how culture evolves?

  • How to do global empathy?

2011-01-10 - HUMANITY ON A TIGHTROPE (audio) 40 minutes
Interviewed by
Barbara Bernstein

"On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with Paul Ehrlich about how the effects of rapid population growth, sky-high consumption, loss of biodiversity, increasing toxicity of the environment and numerous other systemic problems, require all humans to mutually expand their commitment to empathy in order to stay balanced with ourselves and the planet."

  • What brought you to the place where you see empathy as the way to solve the worlds problems?

  •  Science community sees the problems but there's no action.

  • What do we do about it? Need to understand each other and that's empathy. Humans have it and Obama says we have a Empathy Deficit.

  • How do we get people to be more empathic?

    • We have mirror neurons

    • Short term empathy for people in Haiti

    • We have started to do it.

      • getting rid of Saddam in Iraq

      • improving minorities relationships

    • Expand family group and for the future family

    • Need to have a global constitutional congress? on empathy

      • get a discussion and debate going


2010-12-07 - Paul Ehrlich: Humans are wired to be empathetic - EarthSky
"Ehrlich said that one reason it’s been so difficult for people to experience empathy for people across the globe is that, biologically, we’re not equipped to consider the needs of a tribe of seven billion – that’s Earth’s current human population.

  • Paul Ehrlich: We do have the basic equipment to change the way we deal with the world, the environment and other people. The equipment is the nervous system.

  • Ehrlich said that humans – down to the level of neurons – are specially wired to be empathetic. As an example, he referred to the central metaphor or his book, a tightrope walker. He said a crowd watching a swaying tightrope walker will also tend to sway.""


2011-02-12 - Paul R. Ehrlich: Saving Earth -  LA Times
Human empathy is something you pin your hopes on in the new book. But to me, the sci-fi trope -- until the aliens arrive, humans will always find reasons to fight each other -- is pretty true.

One of the cheery things I think, and you haven't heard a lot of cheer from me, is we have the built-in capacity to put ourselves in others' shoes. The issue is, can we spread that empathy to 7 billion people? Just in my lifetime, we've spread empathy, making more "us" and fewer "them." If we had another 1,000 years, I'd be an optimist! I'd be saying, well things are going in the right direction, slowly, and by my great-great grandchildren, things could be pretty good. I have a great-granddaughter now; that child is not facing a great world.

2011-02-04 - Book Review : Humanity on a Tightrope
The feelings of empathy and semblance is to be cultivated and are extremely important in order to avert the collapsing civilization. It is high time that we educate ourselves with the basics of empathy that we have lost while being focused on catering to our individual needs. We all need to renew our knowledge of this one indispensable trait which can help all of us in thinking about our common life-planet.

2010-12-07 - Ecotopia #114 Humanity on a Tightrope
Listen to the Program (some of the audio is low)
"His theme is empathy—or the lack of it—and he argues that lack of empathy for other people is at the root of many sustainability problems. If we have empathy for others, we won’t destroy the earth on which they (and we live). Paul Ehrlich also talks about what he calls “Big Change,” or what others call a “quantum leap” or a “paradigm shift” to get humankind working together on these issues. "

2010-12-07 - Review: ‘Humanity on a Tightrope’ - Stanford Daily
“Humanity on a Tightrope,” to be released on Nov. 16, is a rich book that delves into the root of the world’s most pressing problems: the lack of empathy in mankind. The whole book revolves around this central idea of how we human beings as a whole global family should develop more empathy toward each other to ensure a sustainable future. "