The Optimistic Environmentalist

As a child of the 1960’s On April 22, 1970, I, along with 20 million others that day, attended one of the first Earth Day celebrations. We had heard the predictions and we were duly frightened. In those days, most of us in the environmental movement worried about air pollution causing another ice age through global cooling. Many doomsayers proclaimed Malthus—an eighteenth century economist who argued that human population which grew exponentially would quickly outstrip crop yields which grew arithmetically—was a Pollyanna. We stood on the brink of drought and mass starvation; no oil, forests reduced to stumps, foul air, frozen and polluted water. None of that has happened in the past 40 years, perhaps because we made the necessary changes.

It’s because of this looking back that I’m an optimistic environmentalist. The lake is half-full. Though problems do exist, we have hope. We mustn’t squander resources. Yet, I side with Julian Simon. “First, humanity’s condition will improve in just about every material way,” the late economist said. “Second, humans will continue to sit around complaining about everything getting worse.” Such thinking that everything is worsening elicits a siege mentality where we either shut down because we want no more bad news or we feel imperiled.

Those who feel imperiled bang pans, beseeching us to repent and turn away from our profligate ways; Lester Brown—the rightly-renown environmentalist and founder of Worldwatch Institute and Earth Policy Institute—is one. He writes of climate change, “Researchers…believe that global warming is accelerating and may be approaching a tipping point…” Brothers and sisters the end is near and we stand upon banana peels between vipers and the abyss. We stand on the brink of droughts and mass starvation; forests reduced to stumps, no oil, foul air, frozen and polluted water.

Let’s recap for those keeping score at home, it’s “The Pollyannas”-7,Malthus and the Prophets of Doom”-0.

Well Malthus and the prophets of doom will continue to say as Bullwinkle J. Moose used to say, “This time for sure.”

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