Economic Development of the US
David B. Mustard
Exhaustion of Resources
"Indeed it is certain, it is clear
to see, that the earth itself is currently more cultivated and developed
than in earlier times. Now all places are accessible, all are documented,
all are full of business. The most charming farms obliterate empty
places, ploughed fields vanquish forests, herds drive out wild beasts,
sandy places are planted with crops, stones are fixed, swamps drained,
and there are such great cities where formerly hardly a hut... everywhere
there is a dwelling, everywhere a multitude, everywhere a government, everywhere
there is life. The greatest evidence of the large number of people: we
are burdensome to the world, the resources are scarcely adequate to us;
and our needs straiten us and complaints are everywhere while already nature
does not sustain us."
In 1865, Stanley Jevons (one of the
most recognized 19th century economists) predicted that England would run
out of coal by 1900, and that England’s factories would grind to a standstill.
In 1885, the US Geological Survey
announced that there was “little or no chance” of oil being discovered
In 1891, it said the same thing about
Kansas and Texas. (See Osterfeld, David. Prosperity Versus Planning
: How Government Stifles Economic Growth. New York : Oxford University
In 1939 the US Department of the Interior
said that American oil supplies would last only another 13 years.
1944 federal government review predicted
that by now [the mid 1970s] the US would exhaust its reserves of 21 of 41 commodities
it examined. Among them were tin, nickel, zinc, lead and manganese.
In 1949 the Secretary of the Interior
announced that the end of US oil was in sight.
Claim: In 1952 the US President’s Materials
Policy Commission concluded that by the mid-1970s copper production in
the US could not exceed 800,000 tons and that lead production would be
at most 300,000 tons per year.
Data: But copper production in 1973 was 1.6 million
tons, and by 1974 lead production had reached 614,000 tons – 100% higher
Claims: In 1968, Paul R. Ehrlich wrote The
Population Bomb and declared that the battle to feed humanity had been
lost and that there would be a major food shortage in the US. "In the 1970s
... hundreds of millions are going to starve to death," and by the 1980s
most of the world's important resources would be depleted. He forecast
that 65 million Americans would die of starvation between 1980-1989 and
that by 1999, the US population would decline to 22.6 million. The problems
in the US would be relatively minor compared to those in the rest of the
world. (Ehrlich, Paul R. The Population
Bomb. New York, Ballantine Books, 1968.) New Scientist magazine
underscored his speech in an editorial titled "In Praise of
the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished
islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people ... If I were a gambler, I
would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000." Paul Ehrlich, Speech at British Institute For Biology, September 1971.
Claim: Ehrlich wrote in 1968, "I have yet
to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks India will be self-sufficient
in food by 1971, if ever."
Data: Yet in a only few years India was exporting
food and significantly changed its food production capacity. Ehrlich must
have noted this because in the 1971 version of his book this commented
is delted (Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource, Princeton: Princeton
Univesity Press, 1981, p. 64).
The Limits to Growth (1972)
– projected the world would run out of gold by 1981, mercury and silver
by 1985, tin by 1987, zinc by 1990, petroleum by 1992, and copper, lead
and natural gas by 1993. It also stated that the world had only 33-49 years
of aluminum resources left, which means we should run out sometime between
2005-2021. (See Donella Meadows et al., The Limits to Growth: A Report
for the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind. New York:
New American Library, 1972.
Claim: In 1974, the US Geological Survey
announced “at 1974 technology and 1974 price” the US had only a 10-year
supply of natural gas.
Data: The American Gas Association said that
gas supplies were sufficient for the next 1,000-2,500 years. (Julian Simon,
Matters. New Jersey: Transaction Publications, 1990): p. 90.
Population and Poverty
In the mid 1970s the US government
sponsored a travelling exhibit for schoolchildren titled, "Population:
The Problem is Us." (Jacqueline Kasun, The War Against Population,
San Francisco: CA, Ignatius, 1988, p. 21.)
In 1973, Supreme Court Justice Potter
Stewart's vote in Roe v. Wade was influenced by this idea, according to
Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong: "As Stewart saw it, abortion was becoming
one reasonable solution to population control" (quoted in Newsweek
of September 14, 1987, p. 33.).
In 1989, when the US Supreme Court
was hearing the Webster case, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor brought
the idea of overpopulation into a hypothetical question she asked of Charles
Fried, former solicitor-general, "Do you think that the state has the right
to, if in a future century we had a serious overpopulation problem, has
a right to require women to have abortions after so many children?"
World Bank president Barber Conable calls
for population control because "poverty and rapid population growth reinforce
each other" (Washington Post, July 16, 1990, p. A13)
Prince Philip advises us that "It
must be obvious by now that further population growth in any country is
undesirable" (Washington Post, May 8, 1990, p. A26)
37 Senators wrote President Bush in
support of funding for population control (Washington Post, April
1, 1990, p. H1)
The Trilateral Commission and the
American Assembly call for reduction in population growth (U. S. News
and World Report, May 7, 1990)
Newsweek's year-ending cover
story concluded that "Foremost of the new realities is the world's population
problem" (December 25, 1990, p.44)
The president of NOW warns that continued
population growth would be a "catastrophe" (Nat Hentoff in the Washington
Post, July 29, 1989, p. A17)
Ted Turner (Atlanta Journal Constitution,
Wed. Dec. 2, 1998) in an address to the Society of Environmental Journalists
in Chattanooga - blamed Christianity for overpopulation and environmental
degradation, and argued that the people who disagree with him are "dummies."
He stated in part, "The Judeo-Christian religion says man was given dominion
over everything, and his salvation was that he was to go out and increase
and multiply. Well, we have done that ... to the point where in Calcutta,
it’s a hellhole. So it's not an environmentally friendly religion."
Ellen Goodman laments "People Pollution"
(Washington Post, March 3, 1990, p. A25)
Herblock cartoon shows that the U.
S. neglecting the "world population explosion" (Washington Post,
July 19, 1990, p. A22)
Hobart Rowen likens population growth
to "the pond weed [which] grows in huge leaps" (Washington Post,
April 1, 1990, p. H8).
A Newsweek "My Turn" suggests
giving every teen-age girl a check for up to $1200 each year that she does
not have a baby "in order to stop the relentless increase of humanity"
(Noel Perrin. "A Nonbearing Account", April 2, 1990, p. 9).
Claim Jan. 1970:
1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by
one half." Life Magazine, January 1970. Life
Magazine also noted that some people disagree, "but scientists have solid
experimental and historical evidence to support each of the
quality has actually improved since 1970. Studies find that sunlight
reaching the Earth fell by somewhere between 3 and 5 percent over the
period in question.
Claim April 1970:
present trends continue, the world will be ... eleven degrees colder by the
year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us in an ice
E.F. Watt, in Earth Day, 1970.
to NASA, global temperature has increased by about 1 degree Fahrenheit
Claim 1970: "In
ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of
coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead
fish." Paul Ehrlich,
speech during Earth Day,
"Artic specialist Bernt Balchen says a general warming trend over the
North Pole is melting the polar ice cap and may produce an ice-free
Arctic Ocean by the year 2000." Christian Science Monitor, June 8, 1972.
coverage has fallen,
though as of last month, the Arctic Ocean had 3.82 million square miles of ice
cover -- an area larger than the continental United States -- according
National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Claims 1974: "... when metereologists take an
average of temperatures around the globe they find the atmosphere has
been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend
shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are
becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they
are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age. Telltale signs
are everywhere--from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack
ice int eh waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a
warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest. When
Climatologist George J. Kukla of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty
Geological Observatory and his wife Helena analyzed satellite weather
data fro the Northern Hemisphere, they found that the area of ice and
snow cover had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971 and the increase has
persisted ever since. Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadia Arctic, for
example, were once totally free of any snow in summer; now they are
covered year round."
Later in the article, "Whatever the cause of the
cooling trend, its effects could be extremely serious, if not
catastrophic. Scientists figure that only a 1% decrease in the amount
of sunlight hitting the earth's surface could tip teh climatic balance,
and cool the planet enough to send it sliding down the road to another
ice age within only a few hundred years."
Source: "Another Ice Age," Time Magazine, June 24, 1974.
computer models, researchers concluded that global warming would raise average
annual temperatures nationwide two degrees by 2010." Associated Press,
May 15, 1989.
to NASA, global temperature has increased by about 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit
since 1989. And U.S. temperature has increased even
less over the same period.
Claims: "Britain's winter ends tomorrow with
further indications of a striking environmental change: snow is
starting to disappear from our lives."
"Sledges, snowmen, snowballs and ... are all a
rapidly diminishing part of Britain's culture, as warmer winters--which
scientists are attributing to global climate change--produce not only
fewer white Christmases, but fewer white Januaries and Februaries."
"London's last substantial snowfall was in February
1991." "Global warming, the heating of the atmosphere by increased
amounts of industrial gases, is now accepted as a reality by the
According to Dr. David Viner, a senior research
scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East
Anglia, within a few years "children just aren't going to know what snow is" and winter snowfall will be "a very rare and
exciting event." Interviewed by the UK Independent, March 20, 2000.
"David Parker, at the Hadley
Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Berkshire, says
ultimately, British children could have only virtual experience of
See "Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past." The Independent. March 20, 2000.
Data: "Coldest December Since records began as temperatures plummet to minus 10 C bringing travel chaos across Britain." Mailonline. Dec. 18, 2010.
"[By] 1995, the greenhouse effect would be desolating the heartlands of
North America and Eurasia with horrific drought, causing crop failures
and food riots ... [By 1996] The Platte River of Nebraska would be dry,
while a continent-wide black blizzard of prairie topsoil will stop
traffic on interstates, strip paint from houses and shut down
computers." Michel Oppenheimer and Robert H. Boyle, Dead Heat, St. Martin's Press, 1990. Oppenheimer
is the Albert G. Milbank Professor of Geosciences and International
Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and the Department of Geosciences
at Princeton University. He is the Director of the Program in Science,
Technology, and Environmental Policy at the Wilson School. He was
formerly a senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, the
largest non-governmental organization in the U.S. that examines
problems and solutions to greenhouse gases.
Data: When asked about these old predictions Oppenheimer stated, "On
the whole I would stand by these predictions -- not predictions, sorry,
scenarios -- as having at least in a general way actually come true," he
said. "There's been extensive drought, devastating drought, in significant
parts of the world. The fraction of the world that's in drought has increased
over that period."
However, that claim is not obviously true. Data from NASA's Goddard
Space Flight Center show that precipitation -- rain and snow -- has
increased slightly over the century.
scientists have made such off-base claims? Dr. Paul Ehrlich, author of "The
Population Bomb" and president of Stanford University's Center for
Conservation Biology, told FoxNews.com that
ideas about climate science changed a great deal in the the '70s and '80s.
told FoxNews.com that the
consequences of future warming could be dire.