By JOHN MAULDIN
The common meme in today’s world is that we are slowly (or perhaps even rapidly in some instances) destroying our global environment. Not just by way of global warming, but pollution, over-farming, water usage, and increasing use of all sorts of resources taken from the ground.
Post-apocalyptic movies and books are the rage, showing us living in a world where man has ravaged his environment and our lives have been degraded if not destroyed. Our failure to deal with global warming and the destruction of the environment are key components of the mantra repeated by the mainstream media, pundits, and politicians.
Technology is supposed to somehow save us from our dystopian future by creating new ways to clean the environment, feed us, and help us become more thrifty and less wasteful. But when? When will we see those breakthroughs, that light at the end of the tunnel?
A few years ago I met Jesse Ausubel, who ran a two-week-long think tank for the US Department of Defense at the Naval War College, tasked with thinking about the challenges of the next 20 years. The Office of Net Assessment brought in 15 futurists from a number of disciplines and personnel from each branch of the military who were the heads of future-scenario planning for their respective branches. We sat for over a week, 10-12 hours a day plus dinners, thinking through the issues we might have to face. Andrew Marshall, who was 93 and had been running that department since he was appointed by Nixon in 1974, gathered this group of nonconsensus thinkers each summer to think about long-range issues. I was fortunate enough to be part of the group for two years. Jesse corralled this herd of cats into a cogent work group and kept us on track.
The experience was exhausting but exhilarating. It was soon clear that Jesse was not only capable of organizing a group of eclectic minds, he was also a first-rate thinker himself, knowledgeable on a wide variety of topics, a true Renaissance man. Jesse is Director and Senior Research Associate of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University, a pure-research institution with more Nobel laureates than any other university.
The work they do is astounding in its breadth. I recently spent an afternoon with Jesse talking over a number of topics and especially a paper he recently published which lays out serious research in an accessible way on the subject of how things in our beleaguered world might actually be getting better. It is called “Nature Rebounds,” and it’s today’s Outside the Box.
To get the import of this paper, you may need to know more about who Jesse is. You can read his wiki bio, which is extensive; but the short version is that he was integral to setting up the first (and then subsequent) conferences on climate change in Geneva in 1979. Later, he led the Climate Task of the Resources and Environment Program of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, near Vienna, Austria, an East-West think tank created by the US and Soviet academies of sciences.
Beginning with a 1989 book called Technology and Environment, Jesse was one of the founders of the field of industrial ecology. He also co-developed the concepts of decarbonization and dematerialization. He has more serious science attached to his name than most climate and ecological scientists do, and he has the awards and honors to prove it. And what Jesse tells us is that for much of the world, in many ways, things are getting better.
Nature is winning.
Not everywhere, of course, and he documents the downside as well, notably the serious devastation of our oceans and fishing. There is still a lot to do, but the trends are positive (except, notably, for the oceans). He shows us that the effort to clean up the environment and expand the areas that are allowed to return to a more natural state has been worth it. This is a great summer read. The entire paper is included in today’s OTB, but if you would like to read it in its original format, you can download a PDF here.
Originally printed in PDF form Newsletter (Outside The Box) h/t to WUWT reader Andrew Cinko in Tips and Notes