- Capitalism and Alternatives -

At what cost?

Posted by: Nikhil Jaikumar ( DSA, MA, USA ) on January 10, 19100 at 10:47:00:

In Reply to: Crystal Balls for sale, used, some cracked, or 'The Population Bomb' that Bombed. posted by Frenchy on December 29, 1999 at 11:04:51:

:In the 1970s the world will undergo famines . . . hundreds of millions of people (including Americans) are going to starve to death." (1968)

Well, Frenchy, I'll concede to you that starvation and malnutrition are not the same thing; now will you admit the fact that 40,000 children die of malnutrition every day? Will you admit that more people go hungry today than at any time in previous history. And will you concede that some large number of American children - I think it was somethiong ike a fifth- go to bed hunmgry or malnourished at night.

: "Smog disasters" in 1973 might kill 200,000 people in New York and Los Angeles. (1969) "I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000." (1969)
: "Before 1985, mankind will enter a genuine age of scarcity . . . in which the accessible supplies of many key minerals will be facing depletion." (1976) Yet today: 1)
: Food production is well ahead of population growth and obesity now kills 300,000 Americans a year,

Yes, taht would explain why the poorest of teh world';s peopel. teh ones we should REALLY be concerned about, have less access to food than they have in decades; why Africa's per capiyta food production ahs gone down; why China is having to import food, why so many Americans are malnourished. I hate to say this, but first of all, overweight does not imply adequate NUTRITION, simply adequate ENERGY INTAKE, and secondly the fact that SOME Americans are overfed doesn't imply that OTHERS aren't going hungry.

2) the air in New York and L.A. is cleaner than it has been in
: decades,

Look at the newly industrializing cities in Asia and Latin America. The air is almost unbreathable. Look at how many species are disappearing every year.

3) with two years until 2000, England's odds are looking mighty good, and 4) there are no key minerals facing depletion. Almost all of them, along with raw
: materials in general, are far cheaper now relative either to the Consumer Price Index or wages.

You forgot to take into account one of the reasons why most metals are cheaper now than in 1970, one which ironically proves Erlich's point. The oil crisis raised the price of oil, and since most metals are used in industries which also use oil, the demand and thus the price of metals fell. First principles of capitalist economiscs. This doesn't reflect innovation or prosperity; it reflects global recession, teh same recession which has left the average American worker with lower wages than in 1973. Nice try, but no cigar.

:But have Ehrlich's preposterous predictions hurt his reputation? Far
: from it - they've made him both celebrated and rich. In one year - 1990 - he published a sequel to "Bomb" called "The Population Explosion," received the MacArthur
: Foundation's famous "genius award" with a $345,000 check, and split a Swedish Royal Academy of Science prize worth $120,000. Last year Erlich slammed his
: critics (myself included) in a book the very name of which screams chutzpah, "The Betrayal of Science and Reason." The reason Ehrlich keeps blowing it boils down
: to a single word: technology. It is Ehrlich's bete noire. So he just ignores its many benefits. Now Ehrlich is the lead author of an article in The Atlantic Monthly this
: month, arguing that anybody who still says technology will provide more of such benefits is a liar or a fool. Among his assertions: We really are running out of oil. That
: we seem to have such great reserves, he claims, comes from a decision by Arab countries in '87 to simply say they had a lot more oil than they previously had been
: saying. (Ehrlich claims it was a 250% increase; actually, it was 40%.) But even if you subtract the new Arab estimate, since "The Population Bomb" came out in '68,
: world oil reserves are up 448 billion barrels. Thirty years ago, we had an estimated 30-year supply of known oil reserves. Now it's up to 45 years, and pre-tax gasoline
: prices adjusted to the CPI are the lowest ever. Why? Because technology has made it easier to find new oil fields at lower costs, to extract more from those fields, and
: even to pump oil from fields once thought dry.

At what cost? At the cost of destroiying Nigeria's fishing industry? Watching as Nigerian children are burned to death in oil fires? Seeing the Alaskan wildlife, teh last great herds in America, slowly perish? Funding right-wing terrorist regimes like the Taliban in Afhghangistan? Destroying the rural economies in places like Gabon?

:hrlich tells Atlantic readers, "Since natural resources are finite, increased consumption must inevitably lead to depletion
: and scarcity."

YEs, that's simple physics, the law of mass conservation.

:Wong. Look at copper. As it became scarcer, industry used new technology to switch to equal or even superior materials. Copper phone wiring went the

Frist of all, that's the ultimate non sequitur. Erlich is saying that you can't synthesize copper out of whole cloth; you must either deplete it, or you must stop using so much. You didn't even answer that point.

: way of the dodo, replaced by glass fiber optics that are dirt-cheap and made out of a raw material even Ehrlich doesn't fear for - sand. They are also vastly superior in
: the number and quality of transmissions they can carry.

Look, if the market will keep us from depleting our natural resources, then what the hell happened to the Atlantic swordfish? Or the passenger pigeon? Or wood on Haiti, or Easter ISland?

Let's get back to metals. My cousin works for Union Miniere, a BElgian company that's one of teh biggest producers of nonferrous metals in the world. Right now metal companbies are beginning to have to recycle used spare parts from cars and stuff to reclaim the zinc that they contain, because they're running out of zinc. REcycling is an expensive, energy-consuming process. Obviously, it's better than teh alternative. But the key point is, they've recahed the point where just digging up more zinc is no longer feasible. Therefore, your point is wrong; zinc is a good counterexample.

:But on and on Ehrlich goes. "Human-induced land degradation," he says, "affects about 40% of the planet's
: vegetated land surface," and is "accelerating nearly everywhere, reducing crop yields." Reducing?

Indubitably. Haiti is an excellent example. Why else do you think Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere? And what about desrtification in teh Sahel? More of Africa becomes unsuitable for cultivation with every passing day, as it becoems a saline desert. Flamingos can live there, but not much else.

:Our silos runneth over, as yields continue to increase all over the
: world.

NOT!! I'm sure you've heard about the progressively decreasing crop yields in Afriucan countries, or the fact that much of the industrial world can't feed itself and must import food from elsewhere. Africa produces less food epr capita than in the '60s. Your statement, tehrefore, is simply false.

:For example, corn is now the world's most important crop. Here and worldwide, we now harvest about 50% more corn per acre than 30 years ago. And, says

I don't knwo where you got your sources, but wheat and rice are the most important food crops in the world, not corn.

: Hudson Institute analyst Dennis Avery, crop yields can be raised from the current world average of around 1.2 tons per acre to six to nine tons. And advances in
: genetics promise to dwarf even these increases. Again, technology has thwarted Ehrlich's predictions, and you needn't be Nostradamus to know it always will.

That's logivcally impossible. If nothing else, physics provides limitations. That just made no sense at all. Hey Frenchy, here's a proposal. Why don't you jump out of a window- maybe an alien spacecraft will be passing underneath just before you hit the ground.

Suppose some guy a hundred years ago had started eating mercury when he was a kid, on teh theory that when he got to be older there would be a cure for progressive mercury poisoning. Wouldn't that be as stupid as all hell?

: will still garner those accolades because, while in reality he's always wrong, politically he's always correct. Michael Fumento is a resident fellow at the American
: Enterprise Institute and author most recently of "The Fat of the Land: The Obesity Epidemic and How Overweight Americans Can Help Themselves."

YEs, the title of that book makes me SO respectful....

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