William Vogt

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William Vogt
William Vogt in 1950
Born(1902-05-15)15 May 1902
Died11 July 1968(1968-07-11) (aged 66)
Occupation(s)Zoologist, ornithologist and environmentalist

William Vogt (15 May 1902 – 11 July 1968) was an American ecologist and ornithologist, with a strong interest in both the carrying capacity and population control. He was the author of the best-seller Road to Survival (1948), National Director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and secretary of the Conservation Foundation.


William Vogt was born in Mineola, New York. After graduating with honors in 1925 from St. Stephens (now Bard) College, he was, among other things, an early opponent of marshland drainage for mosquito control and later assumed a series of positions that allowed him to further pursue his interests in birds and the environment.

Road to Survival[edit]

In 1942, he was made Associate Director of the Division of Science and Education of the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. Later he served as Chief of the Conservation Section of the Pan American Union, through which he was allowed to study the relationship between climate, population, and resources in various Latin American countries. These experiences formed the background to the perspective he later elaborated on in his Road to Survival (1948), a book motivated by his strong belief that then-current trends in fertility and economic growth were rapidly destroying the environment and undermining the quality of life of future generations. Vogt's most significant contribution was to link environmental and perceived overpopulation problems, warning in no uncertain terms that current trends would deliver future wars, hunger, disease, and civilizational collapse.

Road to Survival was an influential best-seller. It had a big impact on a Malthusian revival in the 1950s and 60s.[1] After its publication, he dedicated many activities to the cause of overpopulation. From 1951 to 1962, he served as a National Director of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In 1964, he became the Secretary of the Conservation Foundation. He served as a representative of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources to the United Nations until his death on July 11, 1968, which marked the legacy of a thought-provoking individual who fearlessly tackled a contentious subject, leaving a lasting impact.[2]


Charles C. Mann highlighted the pivotal role played by Vogt in shaping the foundation of the modern environmental movement. Vogt's pioneering contributions are epitomized by what the Hampshire College population researcher, Betsy Hartmann, termed 'apocalyptic environmentalism.' This school of thought espouses the conviction that, unless humanity undergoes significant reductions in consumption and imposes limits on population growth, it will inflict irreversible damage upon the Earth's ecosystems. Vogt effectively communicated this message through widely acclaimed books and compelling speeches, arguing that our affluence, rather than being a source of pride, constitutes our most pressing challenge. His resounding mantra, "Cut back! Cut back!" serves as a poignant call to action, underscoring the urgent need for sustainable practices to avert global devastation.[3]


In 1948, he was awarded the Mary Soper Pope Memorial Award in botany.[4] In 1960 he was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[5]


  1. ^ Thomas Robertson (2012). The Malthusian Moment: Global Population Growth and the Birth of American Environmentalism, Rutgers University Press, p 38-60.
  2. ^ Pierre Desrochers; Christine Hoffbauer (2009). "The Post War Intellectual Roots of the Population Bomb". The Electronic Journal of Sustainable Development. 1 (3): 73–97. Retrieved 2010-02-01.
  3. ^ Mann, Charles C. (March 2018). "How Will We Feed the New Global Middle Class?". The Atlantic. Vol. 321, no. 2. pp. 52–61.
  4. ^ "Cranbrook Institute of Science Director's Papers". Cranbrook website. Retrieved Dec. 27, 2016.
  5. ^ "Historic Fellows". American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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