Few groups have been so consistently wrong yet so revered by the political, intellectual and media elite as have environmentalists. They've been predicting that the world's going to run out of coal, oil, gas, food, arable land, and you name it, for decades. If anything, the world's known supply of things environmentalists said we're running out of has increased. Let's look at it.
In 1914, the U.S. Bureau of Mines predicted our oil reserves would last ten years. In 1939, the U.S. Department of the Interior said American oil would last 13 years; they made the same prediction in 1951. In 1972, the Club of Rome's report "Limits to Growth" said total oil reserves totaled 550 billion barrels. With the report in hand, President Carter said, "We could use up all proven reserves in the entire world by the next decade." Between 1970 and 1990, the world used up 600 billion barrels but as of 1990, the world had one and a half trillion barrels of known, unexploited oil reserves.
In the 1970s, Lester Brown, of Worldwatch Institute, started predicting population growth would outstrip food production. His mentor, Paul Ehrlich, in his 1968 best-selling book "Population Bomb" 1968, predicted by 1999 the U.S. population would starve back to 22 million. Since 1961, world population has doubled; food production has more than doubled, even in many poor countries. The Food and Agriculture Organization reports that calories consumed per person in third world countries are 27 percent higher now than in 1961.
What about the 1980s forest-destroying acid rain scare? According to a $700 million official study, "There is no evidence of a general or unusual decline of forests in the U.S. or Canada due to acid rain." As for environmentalists' pressures to come to a panicky conclusion one of the study's authors said, "Yes, there were political pressures. . . . Acid rain had to be an environmental catastrophe, no matter what the facts revealed."
There are other false environmentalist claims like: urban sprawl is paving over vital crop land. Fact: farmland lying fallow in the U.S. and Argentina alone could feed 1.4 billion people. Claim: soil erosion will lead to new dust bowls. Fact: the percentage of crop land lost through soil erosion has dropped by two-thirds since the 1950s. Claim: nuclear power is dangerous. Fact: generating all of our electricity by nuclear power has the risk-equivalent of raising the highway speed limit by 0.006. In his book, "State of Humanity," as well as his many articles, the late University of Maryland Professor Julian Simon, presents one fact after another that totally demolishes environmentalist claims of coming disaster.
People like Julian Simon who brought truth and reason to environmental hype and deliberate lies are routinely dismissed as right-wing cranks and ignored by the media. The media treats environmentalists, who've been wrong time after time as gods of the truth. For Dr. Paul Ehrlich's work, the MacArthur Foundation bestowed its "genius" award along with a handsome stipend for his "promoting greater public understanding of environmental problems." Lester Brown, who's been predicting global starvation for 40 years, also received the MacArthur "genius" award along with a stipend.
Our continued belief in environmentalist mistakes, manipulation, lies and fear mongering leads us to establish public policies that kill people and reduce standards of living such as CAFÉ standards that downsize autos and cause unnecessary highway deaths, energy saving regulations that produce airtight sick buildings and the international push for birth control. The next time an environmentalist warns us of disaster we ought to ask: when was the last time your prediction was right?
Walter E. Williams
January 20, 1998