The world really stinks today. We have run out of aluminum, copper, gold, lead, mercury, natural gas, oil, silver, tin, tungsten, and zinc.

Oh wait, no we haven't.

But if you are an anti-science pessimistic hippie of the 1960s (or today, though their descendants only forecast doom for poor people, they will still have their iPads) you can be forgiven for thinking all that was going to have happened by now. Because a whole lot of people were once saying we were doomed in lots of ways. And millions still do it today but, like conservatives and Reagan, they try to validate their modern beliefs by invoking icons of the past. To wit:

Rachel Carson of "Silent Spring" - a whole book of anecdotal evidence and cherry-picked confirmation bias to show we were doomed because of DDT. Spray it and you will get cancer and die.

Prof. Paul Ehrlich of "The Population Bomb" - we are doomed, because we are out of food.

Dr. John Holdren of "Ecoscience" - President Obama's Science Czar, who guides our science policy today, said only forced sterilization, mandatory abortion and a global government to carry out those policies can save us.

Prof. Lynn Margoulis of the "Gaia Hypothesis" - said we were doomed because nature is awesome. Bonus: Margoulis also denied that HIV is an infectious virus and was a 9/11 Truther and claimed the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks were not terrorist attacks at all. So we were likely doomed in a whole bunch of ways. She also likely did not expect the world to outlive her.

Today we also get silliness like in 2007, when Norwegians created international headlines by creating a "Doomsday Vault" so we could replant after the world was ruined and Gaia fixed herself and we could grow food again. Or whatever.

It's the Malthusian fetish that won't die, the legacy of a Doomsday Prophet 200 years after we were originally doomed because we were parasites on Earth. It hasn't changed much, but people are a lot smarter today than they were back then. Despite the Doomsday lamentations of people trying to drum up money for education unions, adult science literacy has tripled since 1988 - and that means people are not as easy to fool.

Today, people recognize we are more likely to have a population implosion than to have people clubbing each other over moldy bread. It turns out we really are smarter than animals and bacteria, we do not simply boom and bust and have met every challenge. As Bjørn Lomborg notes in The Limits To Panic (1) since the last time doomsday prophecies were in vogue, food insecurity has dropped in half. And even if the progressive neo-eugenicists don't get their way and increase the rights of minorities to abort their offspring or not have poor children at all and population does rise, we've seen no indication food will be a problem. Instead, Doomsday forecasters of today have to pick their spots more carefully than in the heyday of environmental gullibility - an article today says we won't feed the world of 2050 but that is only if (a) no new farms are created and (b) no one outside America actually uses science in agriculture.

Will these prophecies ever end?  No, disaster is good business - especially if you are selling an alternative. Alternative Medicine as big business works, for example, by stoking anti-pharmaceutical fervor and the belief that conservative old science can't understand the mysteries of the body the way homeopathy can.  The anti-science left promoting fear and doubt about food doesn't just insist biologists are running us off a Doomsday cliff, they also feel like Monsanto is a dirty company but that the $29 billion organic industry, which funds labeling initiatives while glossing over the fact that their organic food contains dozens of synthetic ingredients and is only 95% organic, is wholesome and more ethical.

Want to be GMO-free? Just slap a label on there, it's an unregulated claim just like those miracle diet pills in commercials with tiny print disclaiming their advertising at the bottom. If you want the veneer of outside legitimacy, pay a fee to someone to make a claim for you, like the Non-GMO Project, which will happily take your money and agree that salt is Non-GMO. Yes, salt, which is a mineral and not an organism at all, is boosted among its target customers by a sticker claiming it is not a genetically modified organism:

Thanks, Non-GMO Project. You really helped us dodge a bullet with that one.

What they leave out of their feel-good fallacies is how much more land farming would require if we switched to fashionable non-GMO, organic processes. There is no miracle that is going to occur by retreating back to 1813. A world without future science and technology is a world where people go back to dying from air pollution and a lack of medicine and where 1/3rd of the world starves.

The Dystopian, Malthusian future once longed for by Doomsday prophets is no longer just a few people writing books - it has become mainstream due to well-funded activist groups working toward it by being afraid of progress and using old books and pseudoscience studies.  And the solution they are selling - the progressive environmental Utopia that is in opposition to Dystopia - is the only way to stave off this Armageddon.

And when anti-science arguments don't work, they invoke their hatred of culture. We can't ever feed people because evil business doesn't feed people for free or that America wastes a lot of food, which shows no one cares about poverty. Americans do waste a lot of food - and America alone could probably feed the world but expecting companies to do it for free is ridiculously naïve. I don't want anyone to do anything for free, the motivation to not be free is how we will solve our energy issues. And that is the only task we have for the near future. 

With cheap energy, the climate, water and food issues evaporate right along with Malthus and the fetish his modern-day counterparts have with the Apocalypse.


(1) He also includes The Club Of Rome. There was a time when being an academic expert in a group full of rich groups carried more legitimacy than it does today.