15 March 2005

Nick Kristof on Environmentalists Gone Wild

I enjoy Nick Kristof's political unreliability. In the New York Times of 12 March, he takes on environmental car-alarmists.
When I first began to worry about climate change, global cooling and nuclear winter seemed the main risks. As Newsweek said in 1975: "Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend ... but they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century."

This record should teach environmentalists some humility. The problems are real, but so is the uncertainty. Environmentalists were right about DDT's threat to bald eagles, for example, but blocking all spraying in the third world has led to hundreds of thousands of malaria deaths.

Likewise, environmentalists were right to warn about population pressures, but they overestimated wildly. Paul Ehrlich warned in "The Population Bomb" that "the battle to feed humanity is over. ... Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death." On my bookshelf is an even earlier book, "Too Many Asians," with a photo of a mass of Indians on the cover. The book warns that the threat from relentlessly multiplying Asians is "even more grave than that of nuclear warfare."
Too many Asian men, and not enough Asian women. Now that's the real problem in Asia. Meanwhile bald eagles multiply and malaria just gets worse and worse.

UPDATE: The Belmont Club has much more about efforts both to ban DDT and to resist banning it, with follow-ups here and here.

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