too much nature in New York

Enzo Michelangeli em at
Thu Dec 10 18:46:33 PST 1998

-----Original Message----- From: Brad De Long <delong at econ.Berkeley.EDU> Date: Friday, December 11, 1998 3:04 AM

>>Brad, don't do a Malthus: error propagation makes utter nonsense of
>>forecasts over periods of one century. By 2100 we might have much more
>>efficient energy generation, much higher food productivity achieved
>>genetic engineering, etc. Unless, of course, the governments listen to the
>>environmentalists' jeremiads and outlaw technological improvements.
>I don't see a way to improve living standards *fast* *enough* for enough
>people to make them willing to devote the resources needed to avoid massive
>environmental damage over the next century. Poor people tend not to put too
>high a weight on preserving tiger habitat, and rich countries have (so far)
>been unable to provide poor nations with large enough incentives to do so.

I can personally live in a world without tigers, and I suspect that the villagers in Bangladesh, sometimes eaten by them, can too. Oh yeah, but they are goddamn polluters whose reproduction should be curbed anyway...

But my point is that Malthus did not see a way either: still, _thanks_ to industrialization and intensive agriculture, the Earth can now support a much larger pupulation than during his times. Yes, the habitat for some species will shrink, and if we are concerned about the preservation we may always keep a few parks (or, in a few decades, map their genoma on DVDROM for future reconstruction should if we should really miss them). The really serious danger for the future of humanity is to listen to the enemies of development, and retreat in the nostalgic attitude that Marx rightly attributed to "reactionists". (A remarkable thing never to forget is that many exponents of the first historical reaction against Enlightenment, Romanticism, became the ideological precursors of modern fascism: Novalis, Schlegel, Fichte, down to Wagner).

>If you have a strategy I'd love to adopt it...

The best help you may provide to the world is to help its development: open trade, to let comparative advantage work; open investment, to let capital go where it's needed; and open borders to immigration, to alleviate temporary excesses of manpower and provide remittances. Once the global living standards will rise, the population growth will stabilize: it has always happened, regardless of local cultural differences. And by the way, encourage free scientific experimentation, avoiding silly bans on genetically engineered food or "ethical" worries. The only ethical thing to do is to let people live the life they prefer.


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