Saturday, January 18, 2014

The madness of click-friendly headlines: How --- can save the planet!

I have this strange vision of a hundred planets lining up in the aisle of a church for the televangelist to push their foreheads and pronounce them "saved."
Personally, I am not certain the planet will be saved in any case. My wife and I seek to raise our children to be robust and even happy in the face of hardship, just in case their adulthoods are less prosperous than their childhoods. 

Yet, I am not hopeless either. If the planet is saved, in the sense of successfully avoiding a demographic and environmental crisis in the next hundred years, the leading ingredients will be:
  • Adaptation in rich countries to lower resource use (not lower well-being, just lower resource use).
  • Continued economic growth and social transformation in poor countries (allowing much higher well-being with moderately higher resource use). 
  • New technologies that grow more food and produce more energy with less land and less environmental impact (but technology is not magic and will not suffice on its own).
These three things may happen.


Michele Hays said...

Also worth noting: technology can actually decrease resource use in poor countries as well. Frequently, poverty is a driver of resource waste (e.g. no way to preserve foods, so more food is wasted.)

But yes.

Parke Wilde said...

Yes, economic advancement for the poor of the world is fundamental to environmentalism -- both because of the pattern you mentioned (the "Kuznets curve") and because income and universal education (rather than draconian policy) offer the most humane road to lower population growth.