Saturday, May 17, 2014
Elections, “Indians and the American Story”
12:46 am edt
With the Indian national elections (in which some 550 million individuals voted, a record turnout of two-thirds of the more than 800 million who were eligible)
concluding weeks after my family’s recent trip to India, I wrote a brief article.
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Making Bets on the Planet, Climate
7:49 am edt
The sobering National
Climate Assessment includes “resources for educators” to promote “climate literacy.”
As the Climate Assessment was released, this week I finished reading Paul Sabin’s book The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earth’s Future.
as a point of departure a 1980 bet that Ehrlich and Simon made about the 1990 price of five metals (chromium, copper, nickel,
tin, and tungsten), Paul Sabin elucidates the history of the global population and natural resource debates of recent decades
– in the context of earlier figures such as Thomas Malthus. Sabin identifies the virtues and the
limitations of both Ehrlich’s and Simon’s arguments, suggesting how these rivals and their supporters contributed
to controversies over such matters as abortion, immigration, and externality costs as well as climate change.
Blending economics, politics, and environmental science, the book is engrossing and enlightening – countering
the oversimplification that often plagues portrayals of related subjects.
Paul Sabin (a New Haven neighbor) writes of Ehrlich and Simon: “Their
bitter clash … shows how intelligent people are drawn to vilify their opponents and to reduce the issues that they
care about to stark and divisive terms. The conflict that their bet represents has ensnared the national political debate
and helped to make environmental problems, especially climate change, among the most polarizing and divisive political questions….
One problem with Ehrlich’s style of argument is that environmental pessimism often far exceeds reasonable predictions
for how markets function and scarcity develops…. But by focusing solely and relentlessly on positive trends, Julian
Simon made it more difficult to solve environmental problems.” (p. 217-222)