Robert Zubrin: Radical Environmentalists and Other Merchants of Despair

"We have never been in danger of running out of resources," says Dr. Robert Zubrin, "but we have encountered considerable dangers from people who say we are running out of resources and who say that human activities need to be constrained."

In his latest book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, Zubrin documents the history of dystopian environmentalism, from economic impairment inflicted by current global warming policies to the Malthusian concern over population growth. "Just think how much poorer we would be today if the world would have had half as many people in the 19th century as it actually did. You can get rid of Thomas Edison or Louis Pasteur, take your pick."

Zubrin sat down with Reason Magazine editor in chief Matt Welch to discuss his book, the difference between practical and ideological environmentalism, and how U.S. foreign aid policy encourages population control. 

Runs about 9.30 minutes

Produced by Meredith Bragg. Camera by Meredith Bragg and Josh Swain.

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  • Longtorso||

  • mr simple||

    GW is my fault? I never realized I had the power to raise or lower the Earth's temperature at will. I'm even more awesome than I thought.

  • ||

    You're awesome enough to blame!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    But in keeping both Thomas Edison and Louis Pasteur, we also gained Ashton Kutcher and Tan Mom. Think about it.

    Anyway, we'll be fine once the government starts permitting people to mine its asteroids for resources.

  • Sudden||

    The great irony is that we'd probably have a de facto population contraction were it not for the govt propping up the incompetent and subsidizing excessive breeding among the poor.

  • JoshSN||

    It's not important that you answer, I'm just wondering how you square your answer with the tiny central governments which are common in Africa, and the high birth rates there.

    It seems that when people get out of poverty, they have fewer children.

    But, in your world, it is the government (which is strong here, and weak there) which is propping the population boom (which is tiny here, and large there).

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Anyway, we'll be fine once the government starts permitting people to mine its asteroids for resources "environmentalists" are ostracized by the general public for being the crazy fucks they are.

    FIFY

    Those who maintain that we have a shortage have never been outside of a city. Has any of these fuckers ever seen how big rural China is? One could grow enough food there to feed generations worth of humans. Ditto the American west and much of the rest of the world.

  • Suki||

    Those who maintain that we have a shortage have never been outside of a city. Has any of these fuckers ever seen how big rural China is? One could grow enough food there to feed generations worth of humans. Ditto the American west and much of the rest of the world.

    If they concede that, they won't have anything to scare donors with. They take their big fish out in airplanes to look at recently harvested forests, but skip over the 1, 2, 5, whatever year growth of replanted tree farms. They know exactly what they are doing and "saving the planet" has nothing to do with it.

  • ||

    If only it were confined to grifting. These people have an eye on a different prize: making their predictions true through imposing regulatory and legal restrictions.

    Nice racket, eh? The only trouble with it is those skeptical furriners who don't buy into the revealed wisdom.

  • Suki||

    I wonder who they want to be in charge of enforcing this genocide?

  • JoshSN||

    Excuse me, your Geniousness, but it takes about an acre of land to feed a person for a year, and there are about 7.7 billion arable acres of land on Earth.

    I don't give a shit how big rural China is, there are hard limits in place, unless you come up with some sort of fabulous energy source that makes it somehow efficient to grow crops under artificial light (in which case, of course, we can grow all we need underground).

  • JoshSN||

    I should add that, because of poor farming practices and other reasons, the total acreage of arable land is shrinking over time.

  • rts||

    Climate talks stall with nations 'wasting time'

    The latest round of UN climate talks has made little progress, observers say.

    The meeting in Bonn, Germany saw angry exchanges between rich nations, fast-industrialising ones and those prone to climate impacts.
  • Old Mexican||

    Re: rts,

    The meeting in Bonn, Germany saw angry exchanges between rich nations, fast-industrialising ones and those prone to climate impacts.


    Just like an amusement park for anthropologists: seeing how the natives fight over whose daughter to throw into the Volcano god to appease it.

  • nipplemancer||

    I really like Zubrin, but holy shit that dude needs to shave his head already.

  • JW||

    GW is my fault? I never realized I had the power to raise or lower the Earth's temperature at will. I'm even more awesome than I thought.

    That's OK. I tell people that everything wrong is their fault, since they voted for the clowns in power.

  • Being Waterboarded||

    One attribute of many enviros that pisses me off is their tendency to commit Bastiat's broken window fallacy wrt both unconsidered environmental and economic consequences.

  • Raistlin||

    When I hear about this kind of stuf, I walk outside and look at nature and (like He-Man) scream, "I have the poowwweeeerrrrr!"

  • advancedatheist||

    Ironically the people on the right who keep predicting hyperinflation and the collapse of the dollar dismiss global warming as Chicken Little stuff.

    Malthusianism and Misesianism look like opposite sides of the same coin. Both of them serve as propaganda tools to frighten people into submitting to radical political changes which they wouldn't accept under less emotional conditions which allowed them to think more clearly.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: advancedatheist,

    Ironically the people on the right who keep predicting hyperinflation and the collapse of the dollar dismiss global warming as Chicken Little stuff.


    Yeah. The difference is that inflation and the collapse of currencies are entirely man-made phenomena, whereas climate change is an entirely made-up phenomenon.

    Malthusianism and Misesianism look like opposite sides of the same coin.


    Which tells me you have no idea, no clue or even a hint of what Malthusianism means or what economics is. There's no such thing as "Misesianism," just to begin with.

  • ||

    the solutions for global warming are far more destructive then the damage hyperinflation will cause.

    Plus hyperinflation will fix itself. If the dollar stops being worth anything we will simply use something else for exchange, and if it never comes to pass then it never comes to pass. I do not see Zimbabwe in Americas future in this regard. I see Japan.

    The solutions for global warming on the other hand promise to keep millions of people in the third world perpetually in bone crushing poverty....plus, you know, in the video, more forced sterilization.

  • ||

    You make a good point, except you threw all of Miseiansism in with the goldbugs, and all goldbugs in with doomsayers. In so doing, you created a mismatch. Not all environmentalists are control-freak doomsayers, either.

    The other commenters here have shown that the dollar-destruction hypothesis is more plausible than global warming, but the hyperinflation doomsayers do have a habit of blowing off yesterday's prediction by simply pushing the date forward and re-proclaiming the inevitability of the dollar's destruction.

    If you're interested, the doomsayer goldbugs blew their wad from this habit in 1981. Volcker turned the inflation tide, but almost all of them missed the turn and went down with gold.

    One more point. The global-warming tub-thumpers want to control our lives through the government. The doomsayer goldbugs lack that desire.

  • Suki||

    Since we can all buy all of the gold, or silver, or whatever, that we can afford now, what is the big issue about what the government uses for money?

  • ||

    For one thing, tax laws impose transaction costs and tedious accounting requirements for using gold as money informally. If I bought an ounce of gold on Wednesday at $1540+premium and barter with it for (say) a new gaming computer, I've incurred a capital gain if the price of the computer is more than $1540+premium - which is likely would be, given that gold closed at $1573 yesterday. Not only do I have to pay for the privilege of using gold as money, but the tax laws also oblige me to keep accurate records of each transaction.

    Spending cash is not hobbled by either requirement: there's no such thing as a capital gain or loss on home-country cash, and consequently there's no need for an accounting entry every time cash enters or leaves the wallet.

    One consequence: it's impossible to recognize an inflation loss for tax purposes, even though it is a loss of (real) capital.

    If gold were money, with consequent long-term price stability, we'd have inflation protection without associated income-tax hassles.

  • Harvard||

    [..but the hyperinflation doomsayers do have a habit of blowing off yesterday's prediction by simply pushing the date forward and re-proclaiming the inevitability of the dollar's destruction.]

    On the other hand, when monetary collapse happens, it happens in a hurry. Like the housing/banking crisis, it helps little to have your various stops in place, asset prices fall through your stops in an eye blink and you take your losses with everyone else.
    Maybe better to heed the voices crying in the wilderness to some degree.

  • ||

    True enough. I own a little gold myself.

    More to the point: these guys live and die by a bull market in precious metals, and they do have more than their share of crap thrown their way. Normally, bubbles are called two to three years early. There have been public calls of the end of the "gold bubble" since 2006...and gold hasn't gone into one yet; it's still in a regular bull market.

    So, from an outsider's perspective, their constancy is understandable. They have more than their share of crap to endure.

    The trouble comes when you lay your money down. You have to decide on your own exit point, because those captains are going to go down with the ship.

  • GILMORE||

    Malthusianism and Misesianism look like opposite sides of the same coin.

    Well, malthusians are easily disproven over the last 100 years, where there was no 'excessive consumption' of resources resulting in population collapse...

    ... whereas, the Dollar? It *has* in fact been in constant decline over the past century.

    I don't know people who talk about a 'collapsing' dollar - the truth is, the government would *love* to be devaluing it faster, but *cant* because a) the collapse of the EU is causing it to strengthen, and b) the dollar is where the rest of the world runs to hide when they are worried about instability.

    I'm not sure what radical political view is associated with acknowledging that our 'wealth' is perpetually being drained away by federal policy. 'End the Fed', radical?

  • mad libertarian guy||

    'End the Fed', radical?

    I find it hilarious that those who believe that 1) what people earn with their work belongs to them and should not be subject to others sending in the government to take it at their whim; 2) we cannot continue our international adventurism are the radical ones.

  • ||

    You find it hilarious....I find that it turns my heart to stone.

  • Sevo||

    "I don't know people who talk about a 'collapsing' dollar - the truth is, the government would *love* to be devaluing it faster, but *cant* because a) the collapse of the EU is causing it to strengthen,..."

    Yep, if you devalue every other fiat currency, the dollar becomes the best mouse in the horse show.
    Ain't we lucky the Euros spent the last 70 years aiming at slow destruction?

  • ||

    "Well, malthusians are easily disproven over the last 100 years, where there was no 'excessive consumption' of resources resulting in population collapse..."

    Bang-on. Part of me is surprised that Malthus' formula aren't used as a module in a critical-thinking course. As in, "this formula is easy to understand and seems so true...why does it fail again and again?"

  • GILMORE||

    Finally watched the vid...

    ...Someone's wearing a white shirt?? AND A NEW TIE??

    I am stunned.

  • GILMORE||

    I admit, its possible the tie is a less-worn older one which seems new, because its not worn against a, say, maroon shirt, and causing a near-siezure-enducing clash-effect.

    Someone may still need a little brooks brothers therapy.

  • sweeterjan||

    Magazine editor in chief http://www.vendreshox.com/nike-shox-tl3-c-13.html Matt Welch to discuss his book, the difference between practical and ideological environmentalism, and how U.S. foreign aid policy encourages population control.

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  • kevinsmith||

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  • joy||

    Zubrin sat down with Reason Magazine editor in chief Matt Welch to discuss his book, the difference between practical and ideological environmentalism, http://www.riemeninnl.com/riem.....-c-16.html and how U.S. foreign aid policy encourages population control.

  • ||

    "Why Mankind Should Not Go To The Moon," starring the Precautionary Principle.

    Although manned orbit mission have not led to any disasters in orbit, as yet, that record in no way proves that it's safe to rocket to the Moon. The Van Allen Belt protects the Earth and us from dangerous cosmic rays. It's large enough to protect astronauts in orbit, too. But it peters out at 70,000 miles away from Earth. Should an astronaut fly beyond it, he will be exposed to dangerous cosmic rays whose health consequences can only be estimated as yet - but allied research has shown that they do present potential dangers to health. Rather than experiment with lives, the Precautionary Principle guides us to shelving the moon landing as an an unsafe vanity project. After all, we have lots of problems on Earth to see to!

    [Lest you think I'm snarking, I cobbled this from a real criticism of the moon shot made in the 1960s. Back then, those critics were dismissed as "nay-sayers" and shown the door. This field test of the Precautionary Principle shows that it would have prevented the Apollo moon landing.]

  • Brutus||

    That was an awesome video. Kudos, Matt.

  • sweeterjan||

    Zubrin sat down with Reason Magazine http://www.vendreshox.com/nike-shox-r3-c-8.html editor in chief Matt Welch to discuss his book, the difference between practical and ideological environmentalism, and how U.S. foreign aid policy encourages population control.

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