Doom Du Jour
“As soon as one predicted disaster doesn’t occur, the doomsayers skip to another,” Simon complains. “There’s nothing wrong with worrying about new problems — we need problems so we can come up with solutions that leave us better off than if they’d never come up in the first place. But why don’t the doomsayers see that, in the aggregate, things are getting better? Why do they always think we’re at a turning point — or at the end of the road? They deny our creative powers for solutions. It’s only because we used those powers so well in the past that we can afford to worry about things like losing species and wetlands. Until we got so rich and healthy and productive at agriculture, a wetland was a swamp with malarial mosquitoes that you had to drain so you could have cropland to feed your family.”
Simon’s fiercest battle has been against Paul Ehrlich’s idea that the world has too many people. The two have never debated directly — Ehrlich has always refused, saying that Simon is a “fringe character” — but they have lambasted each other in scholarly journal articles with titles like “An Economist in Wonderland” and “Paul Ehrlich Saying It Is So Doesn’t Make It So.” Simon acknowledges that rising population causes short-term problems, because it means more children to feed and raise. But he maintains that there are long-term benefits when those children become productive, resourceful adults.
Even the revered oceanographer Jacques Cousteau was not above exaggerating.
After a speech to UCLA students, a young reporter by the name of Dana Rohrabacher, who happened to be a scuba diver, asked Cousteau if he wasn’t being too pessimistic about the difficulty of obtaining fish, clams, oysters, and lobsters from the oceans in the future. Cousteau came up to his face and said, “Did you not hear me? Within 10 years the oceans will be black goo, totally dead, destroyed. The oceans will be lifeless.”
A few years later the young reporter, by that time Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), reflected on the ocean’s clear water and abundant wildlife in a speech before the U.S. House of Representatives:
“Why did Cousteau feel he had to lie to such a degree? Was it that he did not know that he was lying, that he did not know that the oceans were not going to be black goo within 10 years or even 20 years? No, Jacques Cousteau was part of a movement that feels they have a right to lie and they have a right to frighten people, because they have a higher calling; their higher calling is to save the environment.”