Earth is doing great, thank you.
Another Spring, another Earth Day to suck the joy out. When the trees blossom, the spring rains awaken the Truckee, and songbirds replace the honking geese, the doom and gloom greens appear wearing sack cloth and ashes, and bewailing the guilt and greed of mankind that will one day turn every Spring silent.
Only that day never comes. This ritual has gone on for decades. The Earth Day Cassandras still inspire devotion even when their prophesies never materialize. Troy still stands.
The day after the first Earth Day, Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich predicted that 45 million Americans would perish between 1980 and 1989 in a “Great Die Off” caused by famine and pollution.
A few months before that, Joe Namath predicted the Jets would win the Super Bowl. People still remember Broadway Joe. Paul Ehrlich, not so much.
There have been no mass die-offs, no deadly smog disasters, no worldwide famines. Farming has become so efficient and high yield that fewer farmers produce more food on fewer acres than ever before.
Peak oil? Forget about it! There is so much oil the markets are flooded, and oil companies are going bankrupt. Ehrlich was lured into a $10,000 bet by economist Julian Simon that commodity prices would trend down, not up. To his credit, he paid up.
Why are greens always wrong when they predict the end of industrial civilization?
One could start by saying they are followers of the Reverend Thomas Malthus. Malthus saw that world population was increasing faster than production and was, well, unsustainable. What Malthus failed to see was what a French economist of his time saw clearly: Jean-Baptiste Say predicted that instead of limits to growth, production creates demand, which in turn stimulates production. The cycle is positive, not negative. David Brower, the first president of the Sierra Club, revealed his Malthusian bias when he predicted that government would chemically sterilize entire human populations, except for a few who obtain a government license to breed. Last October, even China threw in the towel on overpopulation hysteria when it ended its “One child” policy.
The green doom doctrine fails because human beings are not just a part of nature, but actually can transcend it. Our evolutionary trump card is our intelligence. We developed our brains while other animals developed brawn. Our greatest resource is not oil, steel or wheat, but our ability to understand nature and its laws, and manipulate nature, within newly discovered natural limits, to serve our needs and desires. Slash and burn agriculture gave way to the plow then to selective breeding and now, yes, to genetically modified foods. Why should genetic modification at the microscopic level of gene splicing be any more immoral than simply grafting a new cutting to an old root? Environmental romanticism sees every innovation as a new Frankenstein. The green mobs come with pitchforks and torches only to discover there is no creepy castle, but instead a shining new Emerald City built by human reason.
Green alarmists blame property and greed for pollution, but the worst polluters are the states and their militaries. It is the lack of private property that results in pollution. Capitalist production tends toward efficiency, which requires using fewer resources and producing lighter, stronger, safer products which pollute less over time. Third World countries pollute heavily as they industrialize, but when they reach a basic level of production, they become more efficient and pollute less.
Green alarmism, like all movements demanding government interventions, will always wind up hurting precisely what it claims to want to help.