The End of Doom

Venessa Hughes of Buffalo, NY Hates The End of Doom, But You Might Like It

Library Journal reviews my new book, published today.

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Bailey

First, the good news: The Library Journal reviewed my new book, The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-first Century. Now the bad news: The reviewer, Ms. Venessa Hughes of Buffalo, N.Y. hated it. Seeking to understand why Ms. Hughes was so disappointed by my book, let us parse her review (see entire review below) of The End of Doom line by line.

Ms. Hughes writes: Bailey, (science Reason magazine; Ecoscam) in what is sure to be a controversial book, disputes claims that the world has reached peak population, peak oil, and peak land usage. She is surely right that the book is likely to be "controversial" among people who sincerely (but mistakenly) accept the more apocalyptic versions of environmentalism. Although I sadly failed in this regard with Ms. Hughes, I hope that the book will persuade hundreds of thousands of other concerned readers that most global environmental trends are positive with regard to the human future. Let us now turn to the review.

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Bailey

No doubt striving for brevity and a bit of euphonious alliteration, Ms. Hughes writes that the book disputes claims that the world has reached peak population, peak oil, and peak land usage. I am not sure what she means by "disputing" peak population; but what I do show is that world population has not yet peaked but is very likely to do so later in this century. Why? Chiefly because total fertility rates (the number of children a woman bears over the course of her lifetime) have been dropping from 5 per woman in 1970 to around 2.4 today. Factors that lower fertility include female life expectancy greater than 70 years, women becoming more educated, greater access to contraception, falling infant mortality, lessening warfare, economic growth, and urbanization. As I show, all of these factors are moving in positive directions, by which I mean, these are factors that enable people to decide how many children that they really wish to have.

What about peak oil? I explain how economic super-cycles affect the rise and fall of commodities like metals, grains, and yes, crude oil. As the price of oil ascended in the last decade, claims of an impending petroleum famine became strident. For example, in 2006 Princeton geologist Ken Deffeyes claimed that peak oil had been reached on Thanksgiving Day 2005 and was warning that falling global oil production would result in "war, famine, pestilence and death." Using data from, yes, the bogey-companies, BP and ExxonMobil and U.S. government entities like the Energy Information Administration, I show that claims that the world is running out of oil are, well, exaggerated. I am a bit curious just what other sources Ms. Hughes would evidently prefer that I use for data on oil production? In any case oil production did not peak in 2005. That year global daily oil production was 85 million barrels per day, and by last year it had increased to 93 million barrels per day.

In her pursuit of pithy alliteration, Ms. Hughes could have more accurately cited the actual claim I made with regard to global land use trends, that is, humanity is approaching peak farmland. That analysis is based on the research done by Rockefeller University Human Environment Program director Jesse Ausubel and his colleagues that suggest that agricultural productivity is increasing at such a rate, that farmers will abandon fields returning as a low end estimate 146 million hectares by 2060, an area two and a half times that of France or the size of ten Iowas, and possibly much more land.

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Library Journal

Let's examine some more of Ms. Hughes' sly criticisms of The End of Doom. She writes: Bailey picks apart well-known ideas from leading environmentalists such as Bill McKibben, Lester Brown, and organizations such as, to use the author's term, the alarmist Worldwatch Institute. Well, yes, I do pick apart the claims made by many leading environmentalists. After all, my book is about global environmental trends. Interestingly, I do agree with McKibben and others that the balance of the scientific evidence suggests that unchecked man-made global warming could become a significant problem. However, I do disagree with McKibben that the way to deal with climate change is become "a nation of careful, small-scale farmers who can adapt to the crazed new world with care and grace, and who don't do much more damage in the process." I point out that instead of resorting to subsistence farming, human ingenuity is already well on the way to creating no-carbon energy technologies that will be cheaper than fossil fuels in the next couple of decades.

I do recount Worldwatch Institute founder Lester Brown's long history of failed predictions of imminent global famine. Brown, for example, asserted way back in 1963 that "the food problem … may be one of the most nearly insoluble problems facing man over the next few decades." As recently as 2013 he declared that "the world is in transition from an era of food abundance to one of scarcity." An alarmist is defined as "a person who tends to raise alarms, especially without sufficient reason, as by exaggerating dangers or prophesying calamities." I don't think that it's unfair to characterize the views of Brown and the organization he founded as being "alarmist," but Ms. Hughes evidently disagrees.

Let us turn now to my supposed "vendetta" against Rachel Carson, the author of Silent Spring. "Without this book, the environmental movement might have been long delayed or never have developed at all," declared then Vice-President Al Gore in his introduction to the 1994 edition. Since Carson is one of the founders of modern environmentalism, it is surely mandatory that I examine carefully her scientific and intellectual legacy. One of the main themes in Silent Spring is Carson's worry that using synthetic chemicals, most especially the pesticide DDT, would spark a massive cancer epidemic. She ominously warned, "The full maturing of whatever seeds of malignancy have been sown by these chemicals is yet to come."

Hughes observes that I scrutinize Carson's claims in my "chapter challenging the idea that doctors and scientists are battling a cancer epidemic." Yes, I do. However, in that chapter I cite and celebrate the fact that doctors and scientists are succeeding in their battle against cancer. The five-year survival rates of cancer patients have risen from 50 percent in the 1970s to 68 percent today. What Hughes oddly fails to mention is that I report the really good news that age-adjusted cancer incidence rates have been falling for nearly two decades in the United States. In other words, Carson was dead wrong; exposure to trace amounts of synthetic chemicals has not resulted in a growing cancer epidemic.

With regard to overall cancer risks posed by synthetic chemicals, the American Cancer Society in its 2014 Cancer Facts and Figures report on cancer trends concludes: "Exposure to carcinogenic agents in occupational, community, and other settings is thought to account for a relatively small percentage of cancer deaths—about 4 percent from occupational exposures and 2 percent from environmental pollutants (man-made and naturally occurring)."

Hughes correctly notes, "Bailey claims that the only path to sustainable growth lies in free-market capitalism and that developing countries can cope with climate change better if they increase their means." It is widely recognized that the development of inclusive political and economic institutions over the past two centuries have significantly alleviated humanity's natural state of abject poverty for billions of people by generating a virtuous circle of sustained economic growth. If Hughes wants to use "free-market capitalism" as shorthand for such institutions as democratic politics, strong private property rights, the rule of law, enforcement of contracts, freedom of movement, and a free press, so be it.

Poverty equals vulnerability. "Global disaster risk is highly concentrated in poorer countries with weaker governance," notes the United Nations' 2009 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction. The report further observes, "Wealthier countries have lower risk levels than poorer countries." The wealth created by economic growth buffers people against the dangers of extreme weather events. So yes, economic growth will help developing countries better cope with whatever perils future climate change may generate.

Next Hughes wounds me deeply when she asserts that the book is "written for a wealthy, Western audience concerned with economic improvement…." Actually, The End of Doom makes a wonderful present for anyone no matter his or her nationality or socioeconomic status. The book is an especially thoughtful gift to celebrate bar and bas mitzvahs, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, Festivus, Christmas, Eid-ul-Fitr, Father's Day, and Mother's Day.

Hughes twists her knife further when she observes, "Bailey's anecdotes, such as a woman choosing between taking an Aspen ski vacation or remodeling her kitchen, may not resonate with some." Damn. Why didn't I illustrate the nature of trade-offs using my Prius versus the organic garden example?! In any case, I grateful that Ms. Hughes did not mention that I have orphans polish my monocle daily.*

Finally, Hughes really puzzles me when she recommends the book "for politically right-leaning readers interested in examining environmental issues from all possible angles." I would think that open-minded left-leaning readers be even more interested in examining environmental issues from all possible angles. 

Verdict: Hughes hated The End of Doom, but you might not. Click here to buy a copy and find out.

Errata: Since I have your attention, this is a good place to correct two errors that have come to light after the book was printed. The first appears in my chapter, "Is the Ark Sinking?" where I write: In 1975, Paul Ehrlich and his biologist wife, Anne Ehrlich, predicted that "since more than nine-tenths of the original tropical rainforests will be removed in most areas within the next thirty years or so, it is expected that half of the organisms in these areas will vanish with it."

As will be clear in the book, I am highly critical of long-time environmental doomster Paul Ehrlich, but the above prediction was actually made by Ehrlich's sometime collaborator biologist Peter Raven in 1994 in his article "Defining Biodiversity" published in Nature Conservancy. For those who may still be interested in Ehrlich's prognostications, in June, 2015 he confidently asserted that "without any significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event."

In any case, how has Raven's prediction concerning tropical deforestation fared over the past 20 years? In 1990, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that the rainforest area in the Americas, Africa, and Asia shrank by about 9 percent between 1990 and 2010. Even if the annual high rate of deforestation identified by satellite surveillance earlier this year held steady, it would take about 180 years for 90 percent of the remaining rainforests to disappear.

The second error is more in the nature of a typo. This sentence in my chapter "Can We Cope with the Heat?" currently reads: Between 1901 and 2010, sea level rose at a rate of 1.7 millimeters (0.7 inch) per year, increasing average sea level by 0.19 meters (about 8 inches) over that period. 1.7 millimeters equals 0.067 inch. If the rate had actually been 0.7 inch per year since 1901, sea level would now be more than 6 feet higher than it was 110 years ago. On the other hand, a much-hyped non-peer reviewed study released this week claims that man-made global warming could boost sea level by 10 feet in as little as 50 years.

I regret the errors and they will be corrected in subsequent editions.  

If you happen to be in the Washington, DC area on Thursday, July 23, come to the Cato Institute book event at noon to hear me discuss The End of Doom. Register at the Cato link provided.

*Not really. I don't wear a monocle.

NEXT: Judge Kozinski offers two more ways to improve the criminal justice system

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  1. Did you actually expect reasoned arguments based on fact to persuade followers of the environmentalist faith?

    1. especially from a librarian. While I work among them- and am labeled as one of their people- I think they aren’t the most unbiased of reviewers… especially unemployed librarians who can’t find work in the field for 4 years… (yes, a google search for the review pulled up her linkedin page…)

      How dare you- Ron- write about someone taking a vacation?! Don’t you know that makes your book completely unrelateable to anyone but right-leaning people?

      And why do you hate Carson?

      1. This is why there are no female librarians.

        1. Yes. And we’re all dog people too. None of us need glasses either.

      2. especially unemployed librarians who can’t find work in the field for 4 years

        pwn’d

        1. too mean? I was holding back as much as I could.

  2. “a nation of careful, small-scale farmers who can adapt to the crazed new world with care and grace, and who don’t do much more damage in the process”

    In which case 200 million Americans would starve to death due to lack of food.

    How on Earth do some environmentalists get this stupid?

    1. Pol Pot and Hitler weren’t stupid men. Back-to-the-landism has always been a powerful urge in humanity for some reason.

      1. My personal favorite argument of his is that small scale farmers can react to the ‘crazed world’ with ‘care and grace.’

        Yeah, God knows the history of subsistence farming has been one in which small scale farmers gracefully react to changing circumstances. It’s not like there was widespread starvation when we lived like that or anything.

        1. I’m somewhat receptive to the argument that it’s in general good for people to keep a garden and, you know, maybe pet goats and chickens and shit, and generally to live in a less sanitized way. But that’s mostly just an aesthetic preference, and I’m not kidding myself that it’s anything but.

          1. Also to breed the sort of parasites that may prevent developing auto-immune conditions.

      2. Back-to-the-landism has always been a powerful urge in humanity for some reason.

        Because when you are scraping at dirt to feed yourself and your family, you don’t have time to involve yourself in resisting the government or thinking for yourself.

          1. And how did that work out for them? Targeted assassinations.

            But, yes, farmers are often political. I do wonder if back-to-landism is popular because the elites don’t consider that fact or if they think that city folks sent to farm will just starve.

        1. I think you’re also really pissed off all the time.

          *hoes some crops*

          “This sucks. God. DAMN. It. Welp, better murder some Jews.”

    2. Reducing the population is exactly what they want. That is the whole point. They aren’t stupid. They are evil.

      Also, wasn’t forcing everyone into small scale farming the dream of some other guy?

      1. The creators of Farmville?

    3. “How on Earth do some environmentalists get this stupid?”

      Practice. Long hours of practice. And dedication.

  3. Why didn’t I illustrate the nature of trade-offs using my Prius versus the organic garden example?! In any case, I grateful that Ms. Hughes did not mention that I have orphans polish my monocle daily.*

    No mention of woodchippers either.

    1. The toxic commentariat here didn’t even get a shout-out.

  4. Factors that are correlated with and may lower fertility

    /quibbling

    1. I’m not sure what you’re going for here, but…

      “Factors that lower fertility include female life expectancy greater than 70 years, women becoming more educated, greater access to contraception, falling infant mortality, lessening warfare, economic growth, and urbanization.”

      My understanding is that falling infant mortality and women earning wages outside the home is correlated with a lower birth rate–cross culturally.

      They’re correlated in India, Africa, Italy, France, and the United States.

      1. I was just being pedantic. Bailey originally said “Factors that lower fertility”. Some of the things he cites may be causal, I think others are part of deeper underlying causes.

      2. KS: Be assured that all of those factors and more are discussed and analyzed in the Chapter “Peak Population?”

        1. Are you trying to sell something here, Ron?

          1. You’ll have to read the book to find out.

  5. PRior to reading any article about guys like McCibben, Hansen, Elrich, and the other Malthusian know-nothings, I suggest people watch this video, particularly the musical number.

    The Boy Who Cried Wolf (muppets edition)

  6. What about peak oil?

    There’s no peak anything. Nothing.

    It is amazing to me how people can still push this BS. Centuries and centuries of people saying we’ll run out of the dominant energy source (wood, whale oil, coal, oil, what have you). Centuries and centuries of people saying were a couple of decades away from overpopulating ourselves to death. Royal metric fuctons of really shitty predictions.

    And we’re the nutjobs.

    1. People latch on to peak * because they correctly recognize that the Earth is a finite place with finite resources. What they fail to recognize is

      1) Those finite resources are still really huge
      2) When resources become especially scarce we tend to get more efficient at using them or we find more
      3) We find alternatives when it makes sense to do so

      What the peak * crowd is really lamenting is their inability to predict the exact way that we’ll adapt to changing circumstances. That really unsettles a lot of people.

      1. There’s also a whole solar system full of resources. I’d figure out a way to get to them inexpensively.

        1. Stupid gravity well.

          1. There’s a moment when you look at this problem and realize how fucking primitive we really are. I mean, we can’t go up without massive and insanely expensive effort. Up. In fact, there’s reams of things we can’t do at all or can’t do very well. Bah!

            I’m ashamed of all you! [Levitates to room and slams door telekinetically.]

            1. It takes an order of magnitude more fuel mass to get a unit of payload mass into low Earth orbit. That’s stupid. We’re stupid.

              1. All we need is to harness the power of the anti-graviton. Sadly, we can’t even detect gravitons, losers that we are. No wonder alien civilizations eschew us.

              2. That’s because of Peak Gravity.

                1. Yeah, yeah, another excuse. Are we serious about technology or not?

        2. +1 Titan

          1. Get your methane and hydrocarbons here! Cheap! Do the Titan-Up!

  7. So Ms Hughes disputes your projections of peak oil, peak population, and peak land usage. Apparently we haven’t yet reached peak alarmism.

  8. Written for a wealthy, Western audience concerned with economic improvement, Bailey’s anecdotes, such as a woman choosing between taking an Aspen vacation or remodeling her kitchen, may not resonate with some.

    Her denunciation of Bailey’s apostasy comes down to arguments made against the SATs decades ago. She doesn’t even attempt to substantiate the little barbs against “free-market capitalism,” just leaves it hanging out there because ugh. Free-market capitalists, am I right guys? I just can’t even.

  9. a nation of careful, small-scale farmers who can adapt to the crazed new world with care and grace, and who don’t do much more damage in the process

    It almost sounds like she’s calling for some sort of cultural revolution.

  10. I don’t care if it’s right-wing anti-terrorist fearmongers in aftermath of 9/11 or left-wingers running around screaming about the eco-apocalypse, hell hath no fury like what panic stricken Chicken Littles level against those who tell them that they’re overreacting.

    It’s gonna get worse.

    First they’ll ignore you, then they’ll laugh at you, then they’ll fight you, and then…I hope you win, Mr. Bailey.

  11. Finally, Hughes really puzzles me when she recommends the book “for politically right-leaning readers interested in examining environmental issues from all possible angles.” I would think that open-minded left-leaning readers be even more interested in examining environmental issues from all possible angles.

    Ron, the leftist echo chamber must be hermetically sealed to prevent any challenge to groupthink. I have given up on the left’s ability to consider alternative ideas, based on my personal experience trying to reason with them.

    It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that you should brace yourself for ad hominem smears.

    1. They used to burn people for heresy. I’m just sayin’.

      1. They shoot horses, don’t they?

        1. Only after due process of law, Warty.

    2. “You don’t want to let a crisis go to waste” has more than one dimension to it.

      You don’t want to squander the opportunity to do something you couldn’t do if people weren’t afraid, but, more maybe importantly, you need to build up that fear to make those opportunities to do things happen.

      Don’t you know you’re supposed to be scared to death–according to the experts?

      Bailey’s pulling the rug out from under all of that. They’re gonna be pissed.

    3. This just reflects the Obvious fact that left-leaning people have already examined it from all possible angles (all the ones that matter anyway), and come to the only correct conclusion.

  12. I note that you’re still using the Rick Steves photo, Ron. His lawyers will call on your lawyers. You know, for lunch in Rome at a surprisingly affordable place that truly reflects the local flavor of Rome–a Roman native favorite!

    1. and don’t pack socks. just buy socks when you arrive. Rick Steves taught me that. (or I came to that realization watching an episode… but I can’t remember which, so I give him credit.)

      1. I liked his advice about not bringing a wallet and simply pickpocketing other tourists. Big money saver.

  13. *Not really. I don’t wear a monocle.

    One does not wear a monocle any more than one drives his vintage Rolls fleet. It’s gauche and nouveau riche and in any event misses the point entirely of having them polished by a small corp of nimble-fingered, terribly hungry orphans.

    1. you forgot “crippled” orphans. The crippling is very important. One might even say, without the slightest exaggeration, that the crippling is paramount to one being a good orphan worthy of working at all.

      1. I like mine to be eunuchs.

      2. Hobbled. The term is hobbled. Crippled makes it sound like you’re doing it for cruelty, but hobbling is done for their safety and longevity.

        1. I like to collect the castrated penises, but killing sex-drive is great for productivity. It’s multi-functional.

    2. You, sir, are clearly an uneducated poltroon.

      One doesn’t wear one’s Gentleman’s Monocles, as these are usually being polished for display. One’s walking-around monocle is, however, by definition appropriate for daily use, and sets off the top hat wonderfully.

      I cannot begin to fathom how you look down your nose at the poor and dowtrodden with nothing to protect your naked eyeball from the poisonous emanations of indigence.

      1. I think we can both agree the man rolling in Monsanto and Exxon-Mobile and BP money can afford to take a classier perspective on keeping monocles and monocle-polishing orphans.

        1. cs: Who is this person? I’d like to meet him. Perhaps he’d consider making a donation to the Reason Foundation.

          1. They will be happy to write Reason one of these. It is probably already in the mail.

            https://twitter.com/hashtag/shillbucks

  14. Next Hughes wounds me deeply when she asserts that the book is “written for a wealthy, Western audience concerned with economic improvement?.”

    I wanted to address this claim because it pretends that ‘brown’ people in the non-Western world give a shit. Nay, care even more than people in the West when the opposite is true. The average citizen in some bumfuck country trying to find food for the day doesn’t give a damn about the environment. Environmentalist is a movement entirely based around the white privileged middle and upper classes of the West. There are brown environmentalists, but this movement started and has been fueled by white people with too much free time on their hands and who live in abundance.

  15. Next Hughes wounds me deeply when she asserts that the book is “written for a wealthy, Western audience concerned with economic improvement?.”

    Is she saying poor people don’t care about economic improvement? Dear god these people are stupid. I apologize for the incivility but it’s either that or she callously wants poor people to stay poor and live in squalid conditions forever. I think the former is more charitable.

    1. People of color, the disadvantaged in the lefty world view, have deep splits from mainstream leftist thought. Your average black voter here in America is far less likely to give a damn about the environment, and most Americans don’t really care about the environment, anyway. The white liberal yuppy who makes up the progressive movement just ignores this reality.

    2. It’s a luxury to worry about things other than food, shelter, clean water, and basic medical care. Who is the wealthy person spouting their wealthy viewpoints when the poor don’t share those priorities? Very much “Got mine, bitches!” kind of thinking.

    3. Honestly, I don’t think writers like Hughes think overmuch and care even less about the ideas they’re presenting. She had her ~150 word allotment to summarize her thoughts, and invariably she used it to signal her credibility to other soft-science lefties and peddle the pedagogy of environmentalism. The substance of the book factored in only a little, as in, the title and the page count and Bailey’s name.

  16. I always considered it fortuitous that the universe is put together in such a way that a philosophy (libertarianism) is not only the best when it comes to liberty, but the best when it comes to economic progress.

    But this review of a review highlights another great advantage of a libertarian society, and that is that if you want to go manage a 5 acre farm and draw your plow with a mule, who the hell is stopping you? Want to buy “local”? Then buy local! Do what you want — eat organic food, wear organic cotton shirts. But, for the love of god, quit preaching your point of view to the rest of us (via a laptop and the internet, by the way, which are the products of free enterprise). I might, in fact, decide to become a “gentleman farmer” someday, but it will be with the knowledge that I’ll be made comfortable by the technological progress of a free market, especially when I need to see a dentist or need a stent for my heart.

    1. “…wear organic cotton shirts.”

      Not gluten free?

      Barbarian.

  17. In case you missed it the last time I mentioned this, you are my favorite Reason writer Bailey, and the writer who drew me to Reason in the first place. I happen to pick up a print version from a magazine rack and saw an article you wrote on land use. It was the most reasonable discussion of the subject I had seen up to that point. From that I came to the website and have been stuck ever since. That was 8(?) years ago.

    I will be buying a copy of your book and have my wife read it to me. That is our preferred method of reading. If I read to her she falls asleep (yeah, I know). She has a gloomy outlook these days and I think she needs the morale boost.

    1. And yes, I still grit my teeth and curse when the subject of AGW comes up.

      1. Ok, bought it. Going to my brother’s this weekend and it will make nice reading on the long drive.

  18. Crap – I was hoping she was reviewing the end of Doom, the FPS game.

    I’m guessing her review of that would be just as incoherent.

    1. I love Doom.

  19. Kindle same price as paper? I’ll wait.

  20. The five-year survival rates of cancer patients have risen from 50 percent in the 1970s to 68 percent today.

    Wow, that sucks. Terrible rate of progress.

    1. This sort of statistic only shows that cancers are now detected earlier. It says nothing about actual occurrence or survival rates.

  21. So Mr. bailey writes a book that ends the doom and gloom of the eco-Nazis, but he still buys into the BS junk-science of “AGW is real!” It isn’t. It never was, and there is no way alternative energy sources will be less expensive or more efficient than oil in 20 years. It ain’t gonna happen, not even with all the current government subsidies and crony capitalist rent-seeking obama-cock-sucking ass-wipes thrown in.

    The only truth in Mr. Bailey’s book is that the eco-Nazis are wrong and have never been right. Unfortunately, he doesn’t admit the latter. Maybe if they understood simple economics, they might get it, but that would really mess up their power grab, wouldn’t it?

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