Apocalypse Not

The Rio+20 Conference is this week, a week long effort by our world’s globally-minded bureaucrats who get together every so often to remind the rest of the world that the sky is falling, and a globally-minded centralized authority is the organization best suited to take on the world’s toughest challenges.

These proclamations can get kind of tiresome and depressing, especially for those of us who have a more optimistic view of humanity. A good summation of these views are provided by Matt Ridley in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal:

Part of the preamble to Agenda 21, the action plan that came out of the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, reads: “We are confronted with a perpetuation of disparities between and within nations, a worsening of poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy, and the continuing deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for our well-being.”

In the 20 years since, something embarrassing has happened: a sharp decrease in poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy and a marked reduction in these global disparities. The conference that begins next week in Rio de Janeiro, on the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Summit, will nonetheless remain resolutely pessimistic about the planet’s ecosystems and their capacity to support human beings indefinitely if economic growth continues. The reasoning has changed over time, however.

The original claim, based on the influential 1972 best seller “The Limits to Growth,” by the Club of Rome, was that resources would have begun to run out by now. Instead supplies of minerals have increased, thanks to ingenuity, technology and demand.

The piece, “Rio Earth Summit of 1992 Was Wrong About Doom—And 2012′s Will Be Too” presents a refreshing, evidence based alternative to the doom-and-gloom of the environmentalist movement. The world is continuing to get wealthier, allowing humans to get more use out of our planet while inflicting less harm upon it.  Read the rest of the piece here, where Ridley talks in depth about the predicted catastrophes that have yet to arrive. Let us hope the trend continues.


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