Chicken Littler

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Reason writers around town: In a review of One With Nineveh at The Wall Street Journal, Ron Bailey tangles again with his own Professor Moriarty, Paul R. Ehrlich.

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  1. JDM
    How does Ron Bailey cause resource waste?
    Seems to me he is dispelling resource waste.

  2. That was just some run-of-the-mill sarcasm.

  3. This is hilarious. Here we have a true fool, Paul Ehrlich, whose nonsense has been proved wrong over and over, but it has no effect. His adherennts just “feel” he must be right, and so use this forum to pick on Ron Bailey. Tell you what, once Bailey has been shown to be ridiculously wrong for 35 years, rather than essentially correct, then you can start roasting him. Until that day, maybe it’s time you started questioning your own false beliefs that the world is going to hell that seem to give you so much comfort.

  4. Prediction:Ehrlich will shit in his mess-kit again.

  5. joe, so your point is that overpopulation is part of the problem?

  6. Actually, I think Ehrlich is a bit goofy, and his formula silly and simplistic. Try again, cap’n.

    “higher populations lead to faster technological growth, which in turn is helpful to the natural world, and (importantly) people.” Doesn’t this suggest that the technology is the key factor, working as a multiplier on population? Imagine India with 100,000,000 population and 1850 technology. Now imagine India with 1,000,000,000 population and 1850 technology – much dirtier. India with 1,000,000,000 population and 2050 technology will be much cleaner. India with 2050 technology and 100,000,000 population would be cleaner still. No?

    Greater population, by itself, harms the environment. By saying “leads to faster technological growth,” you’re pointing out that technology can mitigate or reverse this trend.

    Oh, and I included every temperature figure Bailey did. He didn’t say, “1 degree, which is lower than…” He said “1 degree,” allowing the figure to stand by itself as a counterargument to those who are concerned about global warming.

  7. I love reading the thoughts from Environmental Patients?.

  8. “Greater population, by itself, harms the environment.”

    Excellent argument in FAVOR of snob zoning, joe.

  9. “Huh? 100 houses on a square mile patch don’t produce more runoff than 1 house?”

    Well, jackass, if the 100 houses are very very small, and the 1 house were very very large, it certainly would. There’s a lot more to this than just the number of houses. How very very small minded and un-nuanced you are.

    (You don’t have a problem with that argument, do you? I included all of your numbers.)

    “Greater population, by itself, harms the environment.”

    Yes. If we woke up one morning and people were stacked like cordwood 6 feet deep across the surface of the planet. It would be a big problem.

    Bailey’s argument is that Ehrlick’s equation is simplistic. In any useful equation that could describe impact, population would figure to both increase and decrease it. Which country has better technology, the US in 2050 starting out in 2000 with 300 million people, or the US in 2050 starting out with 100 million? Which has a better environment?

    Further, Ehrich’s entire case rests on the fact that “impact” means “disastrous problems in the future.” If these disasters fail to come about, he’d have to get into a much tougher argument about whether and to what degree people even care about Ehrlich’s impact. That makes the equation even more ridiculous. Who cares about this thing Ehrlich is calling “impact” if they are perfectly able and happy to live well in a world where it is taking place? Ehlich is in effect saying that greater population leads to doom. He’s been shown wrong time and again. Populations stop growing once they attain a certain level of education for women, which means the impact Ehrlich is trying to terrify everyone with (the one defined by increased population) never actually matters.

    “Any human change to the world” is “harm” only on religious grounds, but let’s not get into that now.

  10. Insults aside, I think the key to the 100 houses versus the 1 would be that 100 households would likeley create at least 100 times the wealth to deal with that 100 times greater runoff.

    Bailey likely exaggerates the positive effects of population, but talking about different population levels without altering any other factor of the equation ignores how the world really works because populations never literally increase tenfold in a blink of an eye. The real key is freedom. When people are allowed the freedom to deal with problems, they’re most likely to make the best choices available, whether that means increasing population or decreasing it.

  11. “1 degree? Why, that’s a small number! It must be no big deal. I don’t know anything about climatology or the dynamics of how an increase in energy affects a complex system, but I do know that 1 is a small number.”

    You also probably experience over a 30 degree Celsius variation in peak daily temp per year, so you can put it in perspective.

  12. Julian Simon RULES!

  13. Captain,

    No one here is defending Paul Erlich; indeed, you make the rather silly and stupid assumption that one must agree with Erlich in order to disagree with Ron Bailey.

  14. 1 degree? Why, that’s a small number! It must be no big deal. I don’t know anything about climatology or the dynamics of how an increase in energy affects a complex system

    And neither does anybody else in the world.

    The problem, of course, is that some of the people who don’t know anything about the effects of a 1-degree temperature increase insist that we must bankrupt ourselves to prevent it.

  15. “Population is at worst neutral,” Huh? 100 houses on a square mile patch don’t produce more runoff than 1 house?

    “…while affluence and technology, far from harming nature, actually promote its flourishing.” I suppose it depends on the technology. Water wheels, medieval technology. Coal fired steam engines, 1900s technology. Ehrlich is still wrong, and some technologies are an environmental gain, but Bailey’s simplistic characterization is just as wrong.

  16. joe,

    I’ve often thought that Bailey is as bad as the Erlich’s of the world.

  17. Ron Bailey tangles again with his own Professor Moriarty, Paul R. Ehrlich.

    More like tweedle dee mud wrestles with tweedle dum.

  18. joe,

    I thought you were all about housing density.

  19. Unbelievers and fools! Ronald Bailey will save us from perdition – verily, he is like unto a god in his eternal struggle against the dark forces (can it truly be happenstance that environmentalism, Ehrlich and evil all begin with the same letter?). Fall to your knees and do obeisance!

  20. BTW, I love the innumerate big numbers/small numbers game, which Bailey plays so well.

    1 degree? Why, that’s a small number! It must be no big deal. I don’t know anything about climatology or the dynamics of how an increase in energy affects a complex system, but I do know that 1 is a small number.

    1 part per million? Why, that’s just a soda can in a tanker car (or whatever)! What possible harm could that cause?

  21. I am all about housing density. The same number of units in a smaller space causes less harm than in a larger space. But total population is not density. No matter how efficiently you plot them, 100 houses cover more ground than 1.

  22. I like the non-contextual non-arguments joe shoots down all the time. A few years ago, the doomsters were claiming 5-10 degrees of warming, so yes, 1 is a small number. So it’s actually you who are trying to score points by playing the numbers out of context game. Ironic.

    Also, higher populations lead to faster technological growth, which in turn is helpful to the natural world, and (importantly) people. You can also find countries with higher population densities that have measurably better environments than some with lower population densities. Claiming population is neutral is a perfectly defensible position.

    “I’ve often thought that Bailey is as bad as the Erlich’s of the world.”

    Right, in that he causes widespread panic and, in effect, resource wastage, ultimatley resulting in real misery for third worlders.

  23. As opposed to you who is trying to zone the planet.

  24. You don’t even realize that you’re being incoherent, do you?

  25. “I am all about housing density. The same number of units in a smaller space causes less harm than in a larger space. But total population is not density. No matter how efficiently you plot them, 100 houses cover more ground than 1.”

    Does that mean tthe air in cities is cleaner than the air in the country?

  26. As I understand it the planet is still recoverring from the effects of the last “little Ice Age”.

    We are according to this theory still .75 deg C below “normal”.

    A 1 deg rise is great if it happens. We will then be just slightly above normal.

  27. Simon,

    It means the air in metropolitan regions (cities+suburbs+towns+countryside) that require residents to drive less, is cleaner than that in regions that require people to drive more, all else being equal. Although some people in the latter type of region will be fortunate enough to commute from far enough outside the area of densest traffic, many others will not. Compare LA, Houston, and Atlanta to Montreal, Boston, or Chicago. In both cases, you can cherry pick certain locations to get the results you want, but the relevant question is the overall air quality for people throughout the region.

    But don’t mind me. I’ve got this crazy idea that the air quality of people who live in core cities matters just as much as that of people who live in distant suburbs.

  28. “We are according to this theory still .75 deg C below “normal”.”

    How in the world would one determine what the “normal” temperature of the earth is? The temperature is on a constant set of cycles and cycles within cycles. It seems like the only “abnormal” that would have any meaning here is are we doing something to substantially change the earth’s (or parts of it) average temperature, and will that change have a significant negative impact on us and other life on the planet?

    If one degree will do that, it’s bad. If it won’t, no big deal. If we don’t know, what do we think, how much certainty do we have, what are the risks of not acting, and what are the risks of acting?

  29. 2 or 3 degrees warming would be better for us than a paltry one degree increase. Only those that would prefer we live short, dull lives are making a fuss about population and global warming. Those of us with any sense realize more heat is more better.

  30. Funny how the above sentiment never appeared in conservative or libertarian philosophy until a scientific consensus emerged that global warming was a danger. “Um, um, it’s not a bug, it’s a feature!”

    “Greater population, by itself, harms the environment.”

    Excellent argument in FAVOR of snob zoning, joe.

    Snob zoning doesn’t decrease population, it just moves it around. Only idiots think people stop affecting the environment because they’re on the other side of some political boundary.

  31. “This is hilarious. Here we have a true fool, Paul Ehrlich, whose nonsense has been proved wrong over and over, but it has no effect. His adherennts just “feel” he must be right, and so use this forum to pick on Ron Bailey. Tell you what, once Bailey has been shown to be ridiculously wrong for 35 years, rather than essentially correct, then you can start roasting him.”

    Yes, it’s completely ridiculous to say that Ron Bailey is the anti-Ehrlich. (It couldn’t be the “bizarro-Ehrlich,” since Ehrlich is bizarro.)

    Ehrlich has **consistently** written the most outrageous and pathetic nonsense throughout his career.

    I challenge the posters here who have criticized Bailey to find any outrageous and pathetic nonsense that Ron Bailey has written. For every one piece y’all can find, I’ll show you 3 that Ehrlich has written.

    Mark Bahner (environmental engineer)

  32. That’s your standard? “Better than Ehrlich?”

    Say it loud, say it proud!

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