Natural Resources

In 1980, environmentalist Paul Ehrlich and economist Julian Simon made a famous bet. Ehrlich wagered that five natural resources (he chose five metals) would be more expensive in ten years based on the uncontrolled population growth and the resultant shortages of food and all natural resources that he anticipated. Ehrlich lost the bet, because by 1990 each of his chosen resources had actually declined in price by an average of 40 percent. In fact, we have seen already in some detail that for...

Environmental Books

During this same period, people started writing and publishing books on every facet of environmental degradation, from overpopulation and chemical pollution to animal rights, conservation, species loss, deforestation, the loss of natural resources, and the decline in the overall quality of life caused by pollution. Most of these books discussed how bad the situation was at the time, and all of them made dire predictions for the future if something wasn't done. The most famous of these books was...

Toxic Substances

At a scientific meeting on the toxicity of benzene, a number of scientists including myself presented their research on people who had been exposed to benzene. Benzene is a toxic chemical (and also a carcinogen), but it is still used in many industrial applications because it is such a good solvent. It is also a component in gasoline, crude oil, and cigarette smoke. There was a general problem with many of the presentations at the symposium. The subjects of the study, some of them workers in...

The Antitechnology Legacy of the s

In 1970 I went to visit a commune in Vermont. I found the young people living there to be warmhearted, very friendly, and quite sincere in their beliefs and philosophy. They were also having a hard time. In the Vermont winter, they had found that even with good-quality wood stoves and acres of forests all around them, it was hard to stay warm. The day I was there they had a discussion in the daily meeting (which seemed to last all day) about the heating crisis. The issue was the difficulty of...

Genetically Modified Organisms

The story of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the opposition to their use, first by European and later by certain American environmental groups, is one of the most bizarre and puzzling episodes in modern political history. It is a story that makes virtually no sense and goes only to prove the axiom that scientific logic and politics do not mix. It is also an unfortunate but rare case of an environmental issue in which science has played little or no role. Unlike all other environmental...

Pessimism and the Political Environmental World View

I remember listening in 1970 to an acquaintance explain that the world would basically end in five years due to overpopulation. She explained why in a fairly cogent manner, and it seemed fairly logical to me at the time. When she finished, I was horrified and asked her what could be done to prevent or at least delay this terrible future scenario. Nothing she exclaimed with grim satisfaction. It is too late to do anything now.'' At first I was shocked, and then I felt a complete sense of...

Tobacco

Smoking of tobacco in pipes and cigars started long before Walter Raleigh made the plant popular in the United Kingdom during the seventeenth century. But pipe and cigar smoke cannot be inhaled, and no health consequences from smoking tobacco were noticed for hundreds of years. In fact, there were stories that smoking a pipe a day could be beneficial to the blood.'' The high cost of tobacco also restricted its use to the upper and middle classes. During the first part of the twentieth century,...

Forests

There are more acres of forest in the United States now than there were 100 years ago. As I discussed, the amount of forested land in New England is several times greater than it was in colonial times. Forest regrowth has occurred in many other parts of the world and is being encouraged by a new international program called the Forest Stewardship Council FSC . FSC is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to support the management of forests throughout the world in a way that is...

Time Period

Data from the World Resources Institute's EarthTrends website http earthtrends.wri.org . 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 Data from the World Resources Institute's EarthTrends website http earthtrends.wri.org . 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 Data from the World Resources Institute's EarthTrends website http earthtrends.wri.org . In terms of percent change in population growth, the Chinese population had been growing at a rate of 2.6 percent per year...