08 July 2010

Perhaps This Time, The World Really Will Come to an End?

Best-selling author Matt Ridley grew up in the 1970s, when the world was coming to an end. The world is always coming to an end, if you listen to the right messengers. But Ridley survived the many crises of his youth: " They said the population explosion was unstoppable, mass famine was imminent, a cancer epidemic caused by chemicals in the environment was beginning, the Sahara desert was advancing by a mile a year, the ice age was retuning, oil was running out, air pollution was choking us and nuclear winter would finish us off. There did not seem to be much point in planning for the future." _Source

Now Ridley is taking on the enviro-industrial complex of doom in order to tell you something: Things could be getting better. There will be ups and downs, due to incompetent leadership for example. But as long as bad leadership does not cause the total collapse of global civilisation, the things that are being learned and put into practise in research centers around the world, will stand us in good stead.
I began to pay attention and a few years ago I started to research a book on the subject. I was astounded by what I discovered. Global per capita income, corrected for inflation, had trebled in my lifetime, life expectancy had increased by one third, child mortality had fallen by two-thirds, the population growth rate had halved. More people had got out of poverty than in all of human history before. When I was born, 36% of Americans had air conditioning. Today 79% of Americans below the poverty line had air conditioning. The emissions of pollutants from a car were down by 98%. The time you had to work on the average wage to buy an hour of artificial light to read by was down from 8 seconds to half a second.

...Yet if anything the pessimists had only grown more certain, shrill and apocalyptic. We were facing the `end of nature', the `coming anarchy', a `stolen future', our `final century' and a climate catastrophe. Why, I began to wonder did the failure of previous predictions have so little impact on this litany?

I soon found out. Like others who have tried to draw attention to improving living standards - notably Julian Simon and Bjorn Lomborg - I am beginning to be subjected to a sustained campaign of vilification by the pessimists. They distort my argument, impugn my motives and attack me for saying things I never said. They say I think the world is perfect when I could not be clearer that I advocate progress precisely because we should be ambitious to put right so much that is still wrong. They say that I am a conservative, when it is the reactionary mistrust of change that I am attacking. They say that I am defending the rich, when it is the enrichment of the poor that I argue for. They say that I am complacent, when the opposite is true. I knew this would happen, and I take it as a back-handed compliment, but the ferocity is still startling. They are desperate to shut down the debate rather than have it.

I now see at firsthand how I avoided hearing any good news when I was young. Where are the pressure groups that have an interest in telling the good news? They do not exist. By contrast, the behemoths of bad news, such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and WWF, spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year and doom is their best fund-raiser. Where is the news media's interest in checking out how pessimists' predictions panned out before? There is none. By my count, Lester Brown has now predicted a turning point in the rise of agricultural yields six times since 1974, and been wrong each time. Paul Ehrlich has been predicting mass starvation and mass cancer for 40 years. He still predicts that `the world is coming to a turning point'.

Ah, that phrase again. I call it turning-point-itis. It's rarely far from the lips of the prophets of doom. They are convinced that they stand on the hinge of history, the inflexion point where the roller coaster starts to go downhill. But then I began looking back to see what pessimists said in the past and found the phrase, or an equivalent, being used by in every generation. _Source
Catastrophes happen. But earth-ending doom is another matter. America should outlive the incompetence of its current government, the corruption and criminality of the Chicago Way, the Philadelphia Way, the Detroit Way, the Albany Way, the Sacramento Way, and so on. The Gulf of Mexico will get past this oil spill, or this hurricane, and move on until the next one comes along. Economies have crashed and recovered, over and over again, for multiples of millenia.

There are disasters of course. Trends of "debt and demography" assure the citizens of Europe and the Anglosphere that they will be forced to change their ways, sooner or later. But humans are learning secrets from nature and the universe which gives them more and more reason to celebrate the future and what they are learning to do and to become.

These are not particularly happy-smiley times, not when our futures are being sabotaged from within our own ranks by people who use "doom" as an excuse to create long-term hardship. We need to learn to deal with these doomseekers without sacrificing our own forward momentum.

When skiing rapidly downhill through a snow-covered forest, look at the clear spaces -- not the trees!!! Just be aware that the trees are there. But focus on your clear path through.

More: Don't miss the flip side of the doomer syndrome, -- the "It can't happen here and now" syndrome.


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Blogger kurt9 said...

Two comments:

Of course the doom and gloom people howl most loudly when their is lots of global economic growth. A free and prosperous people are less likely to suck-up to self-important parasites calling themselves elite.

Government and academia people are a parasite class and journalists are the apologists of the parasite class.

Thursday, 08 July, 2010  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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