This is an investment blog. For people saving for retirement.
Except when it isn’t. When developments in the social, economic, political, or environmental policy worlds interfere unnecessarily, ineffectively, or dangerously with the well being of real human beings. And for me – even if not for you – I increasing see many environmentalists as, strangely, deeply religious people viewing much productive human activity as as unnecessary and dangerous to the earth.
This weekend is the 48th anniversary of the original Earth Day. I remember it well. I was a senior in college. The Vietnam War and protests of it were at the heart of our 1970 graduation – arm bands and mock caskets accompanied the commencement procession. Today, our earth is in much better health – greater than ever before. But environmentalists want it still better. They want earth respected more, too. And protected, as well, like so many college students today who want nothing to do any who do not share their narrow views.
I respect and care about the environment. But I also care about human growth and development. Climate change and global warming, which are being depicted with horror this weekend, are not Islamic terrorism. And fixations on climate change hurt poor people, especially in developing nations. Moreover, despite the supposed “scientific consensus” that “97% of scientists” acknowledge “the truth” of man-made global warming, I don’t. And thousands of scientists don’t accept the consensus either – as to the extent of humankind’s contribution to global warming through the use of fossil fuels nor what can be done to stop warming’s influence. But make no mistake about it, if earlier Earth Days were driven by concerns about the degradation of land and streams that would cause crop failures – and so many scientists back then agreed – today, Earth Day is driven by fears of climate change and the hope to kill fossil fuels.
But it just ain’t so.
Thanks for reading this far.
I’d like to end this break from investment commentary (though this one is indirectly about investments) with some thoughts on what early Earth Day true-believing environmentalists predicted and got horribly wrong.
So, here go some thoughts, particularly from Paul Ehrlich, probably the granddaddy of the early environmentalist movement. The following is from a 2000 article by Ronald Bailey that appeared in Reason Magazine to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the first Earth Day:
Imminent global famine caused by the explosion of the “population bomb” was the big issue on Earth Day 1970. Then–and now–the most prominent prophet of population doom was Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich. Dubbed “ecology’s angry lobbyist” by Life magazine, the gloomy Ehrlich was quoted everywhere. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” he confidently declared in an interview with then-radical journalist Peter Collier in the April 1970 Mademoiselle. “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”
“Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born,” wrote Ehrlich in an essay titled “Eco-Catastrophe!,” which ran in the special Earth Day issue of the radical magazine Ramparts. “By… some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.” Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.”
Time has not been gentle with these prophecies.
It’s absolutely true that far too many people remain poor and hungry in the world–800 million people are still malnourished and nearly 1.2 billion live on less than a dollar a day–but we have not seen mass starvation around the world in the past three decades. Where we have seen famines, such as in Somalia and Ethiopia, they are invariably the result of war and political instability. Indeed, far from turning brown, the Green Revolution has never been so verdant. Food production has handily outpaced population growth and food today is cheaper and more abundant than ever before. Since 1970, the amount of food per person globally has increased by 26 percent, and as the International Food Policy Research Institute reported in October 1999, “World market prices for wheat, maize, and rice, adjusted for inflation, are the lowest they have been in the last century.”
I am conscious of and caring for our precious environment. But I am increasingly disturbed by the lies and hysteria surrounding its protection that, to me, seem like grabs for more government control, more taxation, and less freedom for mankind.
Let me close with one of the great lies that the “scientific consensus” promulgated in the first decade after original Earth Day. The great lie that we would soon all freeze to death due to “Global Cooling.” If you don’t remember this moment, or you were born after its arrival, then check out these covers from Science News (1975) and Time Magazine from 1977 and 2006.
Looking at this stuff, does it heighten your suspicion about the so-called “scientific consensus?” About “Global Warming?” Does it make you more ready to give up fossil fuels as the chief source of energy in the world today? Can you run your car on wind? Or heat your house at night, in the winter, with solar?
Policies favoring this kind of madness will do more than destroy your retirement portfolio; it will drive you crazy and make you very sick.