Earth day

Happy Earth Day! Simon Abundance Index Reports That Earth Is 570.9 Percent More Abundant in 2019 Than It Was in 1980.

An Earth Day 50 celebration of human ingenuity


Harrison Brown of the National Academy of Sciences published a chart in the September 1970 issue of Scientific American projecting that humanity would run out of copper shortly after 2000; lead, zinc, tin, gold, and silver would be gone before 1990. Brown claimed that his estimates took into account the possibilities that "new reserves will be discovered by exploration or created by innovation." The February 2, 1970, issue of Time quoted the ecologist Kenneth Watt: "By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won't be any more crude oil."

I report these dire prognostications from five decades ago in my column Earth Day Turns 50.

Today economist Gale L. Pooley and Human Progress website proprietor Marian L. Tupy show how badly mistaken these prophecies of imminent resource depletion have turned in their updated Simon Abundance Index calculations. The index is named after University of Maryland economist Julian Simon, who won his famous bet on resource trends in 1990 against perennial doomsayer Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich.

In October 1980, Ehrlich and Simon drew up a futures contract obligating Simon to sell Ehrlich the same quantities that could be purchased for $1,000 of five metals (copper, chromium, nickel, tin, and tungsten) 10 years later at 1980 prices. If the combined prices rose above $1,000, Simon would pay the difference. If they fell below $1,000, Ehrlich would pay Simon the difference. In October 1990, Ehrlich mailed Simon a check for $576.07. There was no note in the letter. The price of the basket of metals chosen by Ehrlich and his cohorts had fallen by more than 50 percent.

Tupy and Pooley calculate the index using "time price" as a way to measure resource abundance. "The time price denotes the amount of time that a person has to work in order to earn enough money to buy something. To calculate the time price, the nominal money price is divided by nominal hourly income," they explain.

Using this measure, they report:

The average time price of 50 commodities fell by 74.2 percent. That means that for the same length of time that a person needed to work to earn enough money to buy one unit in our basket of 50 commodities in 1980, he or she could buy 3.87 units in 2019. In other words, the average person saw his or her level of abundance rise by 287.4 percent. That amounts to a compound annual growth rate of 3.63 percent and implies a doubling of abundance every 19.45 year.

The index has a base year of 1980 and a base value of 100. In 2019, the Index reached a level of 670.9. That is to say that the Earth as a whole was 570.9 percent more abundant in 2019 than it was in 1980.

How is this possible? Tupy and Pooley explain:

Simon's revolutionary insights with regard to the mutually beneficial interaction between population growth and availability of natural resources, which our research confirms, may be counterintuitive, but they are real. The world's resources are finite in the same way that the number of piano keys is finite. The instrument has only 88 notes, but those can be played in an infinite variety of ways. The same applies to our planet. The Earth's atoms may be fixed, but the possible combinations of those atoms are infinite. What matters, then, is not the physical limits of our planet, but human freedom to experiment and reimagine the use of resources that we have.

Happy Earth Day, everybody!

NEXT: Critics Say a Pair of California Antibody Studies Contain Critical Statistical Errors That Produced Implausible Results

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  1. Wrong then, wrong now.
    These are the same guys telling us NY will be underwater by 2000; no wait, 2010; no wait, 2020; no wait, 2030 – – – –
    The same guys doing C19 models that have yet to get it right.

  2. DOOOM!!

      1. god i love that. at least once a day …

  3. But MOLYBDENUM!!!!!

    Liars! Fakers! Losers!

  4. Abundant? I thought Mother Gaia was, at last, striking back and wiping out the human race?

    1. Mother Nature’s fight against climate change with C19 appears to be working.

    2. Oh, so Mother Nature needs a favor? Well, maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys. Nature started the fight for survival and now she wants to quit because she’s losing? Well, I say ‘Hard cheese!’

  5. Meanwhile we believed the same people (not the literal same people, but the same “expert” class) about Covid 19 and dismantled the economy on their say so.

    And now you expect when they doomsay about the environment or polar bears or bees or whatever, we won’t be forced to do the same?

  6. Also the great irony of this is that because of things like this, my father sunk his life savings into masks. Because he thought people would need them to breathe through the pollution.

    They didn’t, of course, but our basement was packed with tens of thousands of these things. Had we not burned them all, they would be a fortune today. Maybe.

    1. They would not be as much of a fortune as confiscated by men with guns.

  7. Well, isn’t it just great that the Earth is so much more abundant …. for Humans! But what about other species of plants and animals? Wouldn’t dolphins and sharks find Earth more abundant if there were a few hundred feet of sea level rise and more ocean space? Tropical species would no doubt enjoy seeing global temperatures rise 5 or 10 degrees. Plants would benefit from much higher levels of carbon dioxide in the air. And yet we egotistical and self-centered humans think only of ourselves and our comforts. For shame! We need to learn to think of what might benefit other species, even it might mean some small sacrifices on our part. I’m only one person and I can only do so much, but I’m not so selfish as to think only of myself and my species.

    1. Yeah, but polar bears are cute and sharks aren’t. And more sharks will mean less of those cute baby seals. We’ve got to favor our fellow mammals over fish and reptiles and sharks and such.

    2. A few hundred feet of sea level rise!?!? Why are you anti-terrestrial? Allowing that kind of destruction of habitat is unconscionable.

      Also, reducing sea level is anti-aquatic. Reducing the livable habitat for sea creatures is too terrible to comprehend!!!

      Everything in the world must stay exactly as it is now… No wait… Exactly as it was 100 years ago… No wait… There were still people then… Exactly as it was 5 million years ago, which we know would be exactly like today just without people because SCIENCE!

    3. I don’t know if you’re a parody account, so I’ll treat you as frank. Actual sea level rise estimates are a few inches. At most, we are looking at 2 meters over the next century. Actual temperature rise estimates are 2-3 C. It’s not really possible to go much more, since temperature rise with CO2 is logarithmic.

      Also, this will cause better plant growth and higher rainfall (higher temperature causes more evaporation, and what goes up must come down), so yes, overall, this will be significantly better for all animals. Even polar bears will benefit from the warmer weather, as mild winters improve conditions for seal pupping.

      Temperature is not a major deciding factor for animals, and where it is, warm weather is almost universally superior to cold. Food is.

      Yes, I’m being a littler overpositive in this post. However, the claim that CO2 will cause an apocalypse is flat out denial of the most basic of science that any small child could observe.

      1. The best approach to comments here is to assume they are all parody accounts.
        Because the real world today is a parody.

        1. Yes. Including me. (sometimes)

  8. Thank God for capitalism. And the strength to fight back against collectivist oppressors.

  9. Harrison Brown [predicted] lead, zinc, tin, gold, and silver would be gone before 1990.

    Well, to be fair, he *did* snuff it in 1986.

    1. That is the problem. Lots of people predicted this garbage in the 70s and 80s. I recall one paper called the Forgotten Lessons of the Energy Crisis (I may have the title wrong) that said an Earth full of oil would last 500 years. It was based on flawed assumptions of energy use and growth rates. While ultimately there is a finite amount of fossil fuels, these papers assumed no advancement of energy efficiency, or new sources of energy or technological advancement. When I read that paper coal power was in the majority and natural gas was subservient and regulated. Now natural gas is king and we went from 30% to 60% efficiency.

  10. “Happy Earth Day” is an oxymoron. Earth day is a day of atonement and misery. Like Lent and Ramadan it’s a day where you give up everything. Forever! No wonder leftists embrace it so fully. When they run the world into perpetual shortages of all and sundry they’ll have the ready excuse it’s for your own good.

    1. I celebrated with a very small gathering, which consisted of me and my upstairs neighbor, where we utilized chemically stored sunlight energy to light our patio and heat and sanitize edible items that were, for the most part, also solar powered, either primarily or as a secondary or tertiary source.

      We had a BBQ. And a fire pit. Carbon was released to the atmosphere.

      1. Welcome to the revolution.
        Keep up the good work.

  11. Molly be damned, we’re running out of Molybdenum!!!

  12. “Earth Day”? Far as I’m concerned 22 April is just the day after San Jacinto Day.

  13. What an interesting coincidence that April 22nd, the date chosen for Earth Day, also just happens to be the birthday of one Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, the Bolshevik monster who went by the name of Lenin.

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