Happy Earth Day! Reason Recycles 5 Decades of Environmental Coverage

A selection of Reason's most incisive articles on population, pollution, resource depletion, biodiversity, energy, climate change, and the ideological environmentalists' penchant for peddling doom.


About 20 million Americans turned out for the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. In his Reason March/April 1970 article "Infinite Sink No More," future Reason editor Robert Poole called ecology "The Issue of 1970."

Poole addressed contemporary concerns about rising air and water pollution, increasing population, and natural resource exploitation. He argued that the solutions to environmental problems were not to be found in the creation of new federal bureaucracies and the proliferation of regulations; instead, he advocated for "full liability," where individuals and companies would be responsible for the nonconsenting harms and costs they impose on other people. Poole observed that many, if not most, environmental problems are the result of the "tragedy of the commons," in which resources are plundered and polluted because no one owns them and thus no one has an incentive to protect, preserve, and profit from them.

Poole flatly rejected historian Lynn White's infamous conclusion in his 1967 essay, "The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis," that he personally doubted "that disastrous ecologic backlash can be avoided simply by applying to our problems more science and more technology." Poole countered that "technology is inherently life-supporting in that it seeks to apply man's understanding of the facts of nature, to enable him to live on earth (or in space) more effectively." He added that the "essential nature of technology" is "finding ways of doing more with less and less use of resources."

"Capitalism, by providing an atmosphere in which technology can flourish," Poole wrote, ensures that the "size of the pie increases, such that everyone gains." He concluded, "Those who cry that we must choose between a technology which destroys the environment or a simplified, static, no-growth society misunderstand both technology and ecology."

To celebrate Earth Day 2023, we are recycling a selection of some of Reason's most incisive articles addressing the issues of population, pollution, resource depletion, biodiversity, energy, and the ideological environmentalists' penchant for peddling doom.

August 1972: "Ayn Rand vs. Ecology," by Brian Mason: "Truly amazed that Ayn Rand, whose political philosophy is based on the ultimate value of life, came out strongly against the whole ecology movement!"

May 1975: "The Energy Crisis & How To Solve It," by R. Johnson: "The most important action we can take right now is to amend, at the very least, or preferably repeal in its entirety, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969."

March 1977: "Energy Crisis: Made in Washington," by Alan Reynolds: "Our energy problems were made in the U.S.A."

November 1977: "Doomsday Criers & Technocrats," by Jerome Tuccille: "Optimism gives the technocrats no reason to plan for anything, while pessimism gives them sufficient reason to plan for everything."

August 1978: "Debunking Doomsday," by Phillip Gramm: "Civilizations don't die by exhausting their resources. They die by consuming the institutions that made their vitality possible."

January 1980: "Solar Myths and Solar Facts," by R. Johnson: "Solar power is generating a lot of heat, but what the debate needs is a cool-headed look at where solar systems will pay off and where they won't."

November 1980: "Sane Environmentalism," by Dick Bjornseth: "It certainly will not upset…true free-market advocates."

February 1981: "Love Canal," by Eric Zuesse: "The truth seeps out."

April 1984: "Does Doom Loom?" by Julian Simon: "There's always been an abundance of resources. Is the party over?"

June/July 1984: "Why Aren't You Worried About a Shortage of Whale Oil?" by Charles Maurice and Charles W. Smithson: "America's first oil crisis occurred long before the 1970s—and it was solved without the government stepping in."

August/September 1988: "Gone Fishin'," by Jane Shaw and Richard Stroup: "Britain's streams are lovely, clear, and deep. And private."

December 1988: "Apocalypse, No," by Virginia Postrel: "Environmentalism has a split personality. Its outgoing side, the one most people know, likes tall tales of global destruction and demands absolute solutions—eliminate fossil fuels or die."

April 1990: "The Green Road to Serfdom," by Virginia Postrel: "At least the socialists claimed to like people."

April 1992: "All Creatures Great and Small," by Charles Oliver: "Species preservation out of control."

November 1994: "Of Mice and Men," by Virginia Postrel: Postrel conducted an interview with biochemist Bruce Ames on the real causes of cancer.

February 1997: "Dances With Myths," by Terry Anderson: "Half-truths about American Indians' environmental ethic obscure the rational ways in which they have lived with and shaped the natural world."

November 1997: "Climate Controls," by Gregory Benford: "If we treated global warming as a technical problem instead of a moral outrage, we could cool the world."

April 1999: "Precautionary Tale," by Ronald Bailey: "The latest environmentalist concept—the Precautionary Principle—seeks to stop innovation before it happens. Very bad idea."

May 2000: "Earth Day, Then and Now," by Ronald Bailey: "The planet's future has never looked better. Here's why."

April 2001: "The Future of Life," by Ronald Bailey: "Protecting biodiversity through the private sector."

June 2001: "What Cancer Epidemic?" by Ronald Bailey: "Sir Richard Doll, head of the Clinical Trial Service & Epidemiological Studies Unit in Britain, estimates that only 1 to 5 percent of cancers can be attributed to pollution."

December 2003: "'Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up,'" by Ronald Bailey: "Celebrating 30 years of failing to save endangered species."

April 2005: "The Exotic Species War," by Ronald Bailey: "Scientifically mandated or culture clash?"

May 2006: "Peak Oil Panic," by Ronald Bailey: "Is the planet running out of gas? If it is, what should the Bush administration do about it?"

September 2006: "Confessions of an Alleged ExxonMobil Whore," by Ronald Bailey: "Actually no one paid me to be wrong about global warming. Or anything else."

August/September 2007: "Our Intangible Riches," by Ronald Bailey: "World Bank economist Kirk Hamilton on the planet's real wealth."

July 2008: "Attack of the Super-Intelligent Purple Space Squid Creators," by Ronald Bailey: "Debating evolution and intelligent design at FreedomFest 2008."

December 2009: "Is Government Action Worse Than Global Warming?" by Ronald Bailey: "Why policy nihilism may be the only rational response to climate change."

March 2010: "Sea Turtle Tastes Like Veal," by Ronald Bailey: "Can eating endangered species help save them?"

April 2010: "Earth Day Turns 40," by Ronald Bailey: "Environmentalist pioneers have had it their way for four decades. It's time for a change."

July 2010: "Got Environmental Problems? Think Government," by Ronald Bailey: "Foreign Policy identifies true environmental catastrophes, but misses the main cause."

November 2010: "Invasion of the Invasive Species!" by Ronald Bailey: "Local biodiversity is increasing because of man, not despite him."

May 2011: "The Politics of Protection," by Katherine Mangu-Ward: "The battles over the Endangered Species Act are all too human."

April 2012: "The Limits to The Limits to Growth," by Ronald Bailey: "Contemplating 1972 predictions of environmental doom, just in time for Earth Day."

June 2012: "Free Markets = Sustainable Development," by Ronald Bailey: "Without capitalism, true sustainability is impossible."

April 2013: "De-Extinction Would Be Really Cool," by Ronald Bailey: "Extinct species might be brought back to life by means of back-breeding, cloning, or genetic engineering."

January 2014: "Eat Your Frankenfood!" by A. Barton Hinkle: "The conspiracy-minded, anti-science liberals."

September 2014: "How Markets and Property Rights Can Protect Nature," by John Stossel: "It's natural—and wrong—to assume greedy capitalists will run amok and destroy the Earth unless stopped by regulation."

October 2014: "Is Capitalism Environmentally Unsustainable?" by Ronald Bailey: "The goal must be to find ways for liberty and the environment to flourish together, not to sacrifice one in the vain hope of protecting the other."

June 2015: "Extinction Is Not Forever," by Zach Weissmueller: "Q&A with the Long Now Foundation's Ben Novak."

October 2015: "Plastic Bags Are Good For You," by Katherine Mangu-Ward: "What prohibitionists get wrong about one of modernity's greatest inventions."

February 2016: "GMO Alarmist Nassim Taleb Backs Out of Debate. I Refute Him Anyway," by Ronald Bailey: "Fallacious arguments against developing and growing modern biotech crops is cause for great moral concern."

April 2016: "Happy Earth Day: A Reprise of Failed Doom," by Ronald Bailey: "A trip down memory lane of failed Earth Day predictions past."

October 2016: "Actively Open-Minded Thinking About Climate Change," by Ronald Bailey: "It's not really all that open-minded. Science curious people on the other hand…"

February 2017: "High Population Density Just Might Be Good For You," by Ronald Bailey: "For people, unlike rats, the human 'behavioral sink' seems to be greater creativity, not pathological collapse."

November 2017: "How Concerned Should You Be About Species Extinction?" by Ronald Bailey: "Not very, says biologist R. Alexander Pyron."

March 2018: "Humanity Is Not Destroying the Natural World. We're Changing It," by Ronald Bailey: "Welcome to Anthropocene Park."

October 2018: "Wild Animal Populations Down 60 Percent Since 1970," by Ronald Bailey: "But economic growth will reverse this trend by sparing lots more land for nature during this century."

March 2019: "Good News! No Need To Have a Mental Breakdown Over 'Climate Collapse,'" by Ronald Bailey: "The hot new Deep Adaptation report about near-term climate catastrophe is overblown."

May 2019: "U.N. Says 1 Million Species Will Go Extinct Without a 'Fundamental, System-wide Reorganization,'" by Ronald Bailey: "But predictions of the apocalypse are again likely overstated."

September 2019: "Think Globally, Shame Constantly: The Rise of Greta Thunberg Environmentalism," by Nick Gillespie: "Her future—and that of the planet—hasn't been 'stolen' and the best way forward is through serious policy discussion, not histrionics."

April 2020: "Earth Day Turns 50," by Ronald Bailey: "Half a century later, a look back at the forecasters who got the future wrong—and one who got it right."

March 2021: "We Are As Gods: Stewart Brand & The Fight To Bring Back Woolly Mammoths," by Nick Gillespie: "From 'stay hungry, stay foolish' to 'try everything, take nothing off the table.'"

April 2022: "After 53 Earth Days, Society Still Hasn't Collapsed," by Ronald Bailey: "The Limits to Growth is still 'as wrongheaded as it is possible to be.'"

May 2022: "Stop Using 'Too Hot' Climate Models, Says Nature Commentary," by Ronald Bailey: "And avoid implausible, worst-case scenarios for greenhouse gas emissions too."

December 2022: "The Myth of Wild Nature and Creating a New Form of Paradise," by Ronald Bailey: "A review of the new book Tickets For The Ark, by Rebecca Nesbit."

January 2023: "60 Minutes Promotes Paul Ehrlich's Failed Doomsaying One More Time," by Ronald Bailey: "The Population Bomber has never been right, but is never in doubt that the world is coming to its end."

March 2023: "Rousseau, Malthus, and Thanos Were Wrong," by Nick Gillespie: "The authors of Superabundance make a strong case that more people and industrialization mean a richer, more prosperous world."

March 2023: "Is 'Climate Time-Bomb' Really Ticking Toward Imminent Catastrophe?" by Ronald Bailey: "Climate change is a problem, but the IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report is wrong to suggest that humanity is on the brink of catastrophic warming."