Refuting FE's Article on the Environment

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Appeared in the Financial Express, Bangladesh, July 18, 2003
IN Human-Earth interaction becoming totally unsustainable, your correspondent grossly exaggerates the extent of humanity’s negative impact on the environment, trotting out a discredited litany of doom and gloom.

In The Sceptical Environmentalist, former Greenpeace member Bjorn Lomborg refutes this litany with cold hard facts. It’s a book your writer should internalize. As Lomborg documents, the vast majority of health and environmental indicators suggest that the vast majority of humans are living longer, healthier, more prosperous lives, while quite adequately protecting their environment. Lomborg specifically refutes many of the claims made in your article.

Your assertion that 17 hectares of top soil are lost in the US with every crop, for example, seems to stem from an often-misreported single study of a 0.11 hectare sloping plot of Belgian farmland.

Another example of your exaggeration involves the extinction of species. It is true that human development seems to have lifted the extinction rate from a natural background rate of 2 species per decade to 25 species per decade, but out of an estimated 1.6 million species on Earth, and compared with many extinctions that pre-dated humanities existence, that’s hardly an ’’extinction spasm.’’

While it is inarguable that human action - particularly industrial development - can damage the environment, it’s equally inarguable that such damage is generally transitory, and reversible. If there is a threat to the environment, it comes not from development, but from governments that keep their people so impoverished that they are unable, or unwilling to sacrifice improvements in quality of life for the sake of environmental protection.

When you look around the world, the governments that score highly on economic freedom and democratic institutions are more highly developed, have longer life-expectancies, lower rates of disease, and yes, higher levels of environmental protection.

The answer to environmental degradation is not to take humanity back to some utopian, non-technological agrarianism, but is to move forward, expanding the economic well-being that lets people afford to set aside environmental resources rather than consume them simply to survive.

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