Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

Why socially-progressive scientists should not make bets…

Posted 25 Jan 2014 / 0

NPR Morning EditionA Bet, Five Metals And The Future Of The Planet

This is an excellent piece that encapsulates the argument between “population pessimists” and “technological optimists”, an argument that seems to have been won by the technologists.

It is frustrating how much damage has been done by people like Paul Ehrlich. His overconfidence in his own ability to make scientific predictions has made it appear — potentially falsely — that we need not worry about the long-term sustainability of our economies. Scientists really should not make predictions when there is so little known about a potential problem.

And to make a bet on metals prices? This seems to indicate that Ehrlich really did not understand the nature of human economies! If you want to bet on something, make it something linked to the actual ecological health of our economy. If Ehrlich had bet on how many fisheries worldwide would be collapsed over that decade, he probably could have won.

Finally, there is the short-sighted focus on population alone, as if population was the only thing that determined sustainability.

Some of these early conservationists really made things worse rather than better, and their scientific hubris is to blame.

A Minor Post, Anthropogenic Change, Carrying Capacity, Conservation Biology, Economic sustainability, Economics, Ecosystem Services, Population Growth, Population Pressure, Public Policy, Radio & Podcasts, Resource Consumption, Sociology, Sustainability

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