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Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

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This time it's different

 

 

 

The New York Times has a fawning profile of the paymaster of eco-doomsters, Jeremy Grantham. It says:

In his April letter, "Time to Wake Up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever," [Jeremy Grantham] argued that "we are in the midst of one of the giant inflection points in economic history." The market is "sending us the Mother of all price signals," warning us that "if we maintain our desperate focus on growth, we will run out of everything and crash."

This reminds me of T.B.Macaulay:

``We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who say society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days, but so said all who came before us and with just as much apparent reason...On what principle is it that with nothing but improvement behind us we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?''

Grantham's problem is that he is saying exactly what doomsters have ben saying all my life about myriad environmental issues and they have been wrong every time. Go back 40 years to 1971 and recall the continual dirge of dire doom that those of us who became teenagers that year were subjected to over the next four decades. The grown-ups told us with terrible certainty that

the population explosion was unstoppable;

global famine was inevitable;

crop yield increases would peter out;

food aid to India was futile;

a cancer epidemic caused by pesticides in the environment would shorten our lives;

the desert was advancing at two miles a year;

nuclear fallout was a growing risk;

nuclear winter was an inevitable consequence of an inevitable nuclear war;

Ebola, hanta virus and swine flu pandemics were overdue;

urban decay was irreversible;

acid rain was going to destroy whole forests;

oil spills were increasing;

economic growth was ceasing;

global inequalities would rise;

oil and gas would soon run out;

and so would copper, zinc, chrome and many other natural resources;

urban air pollution was getting worse;

the Great Lakes were dying;

dozens of bird and mammal species would become extinct each year;

a new ice age was coming;

sperm counts were falling;

mad cow disease would kill hundreds of thousands of people;

genetically modified weeds would devastate ecosystems;

nanotechnology would run riot;

computers would crash at the dawn of the millennium, bringing down parts of civilisation with them;

winter snow would become a rarity;

hurricanes would increase in frequency;

malaria would get worse;

climate change would wipe out species;

weather would kill more people

and sea-level rise would accelerate.

All these were trumpeted loudly in the mainstream media at one time or another: I am not picking obscure cases. Not one of them came true.

Presumably Grantham thinks this time it's different.

Oh, but...

Grantham... says that "this time it's different are the four most dangerous words in the English language."