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Earth Day: Fear-mongering predictions

The gloom-and-doom predictions made throughout the past five decades have not come true.

Published: April 24, 2019, 8:28 am

    Nicolas Loris, writing in the Bangor Daily News, says “fear-mongering about explosive population growth, food crises and the imminent depletion of natural resources have been a staple of Earth Day events since 1970”.

    He added that the common thread among these predictions was that they stirred up a lot more emotions than actual facts.

    World Bank and United Nations data show that extreme poverty and global hunger has noticeably decreased since 1970. According to the International Energy Agency, the number of people without access to electricity fell to below 1 billion people for the first time.

    But decades ago, an ecologist predicted only doom. “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate … that there won’t be any more crude oil,” ecologist Kenneth Watt warned around the time of the first Earth Day event.

    “You’ll drive up to the pump and say, ‘Fill ’er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, ‘I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’” Watt also warned of global cooling and nitrogen buildup rendering all of the planet’s land unusable.

    Instead higher oil prices motivated entrepreneurs to invest in alternatives to oil, whether in batteries, natural-gas vehicles or biofuels. Drivers explored their consumption options such as alternative modes of transportation or, bought more fuel-efficient vehicles.

    According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s latest air quality trends report, the combined emissions of the six common air pollutants have decreased 73 percent between 1970 and 2017.

    Nineteen years after Watt’s deadline, the United States is now the world’s largest oil producer, according to the US Energy Information Administration — and continually breaking records.

    New technologies and tough legislation have resulted in improved environmental trends, significantly in the United States. Pollutants known to cause harm to public health and the environment are declining.

    Also, countries with greater economic freedoms have cleaner environments and greater environmental sustainability. The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom and Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index show a highly positive correlation between a country’s environmental performance and its economic freedom.

    Freer economies have access to better products and technologies too. Property rights are a central hallmark of free economies, improved environmental stewardship, conservation, wildlife, forests and other sustainable resources.

    The absence of private property rights in developing countries remains one of the largest barriers to improved prosperity and environmental well-being.

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