August 23, 2012

Apocalypse NOT? Well, I'll take Matt Ridley with grains of salt

Matt Ridley claims that the "secular four horsemen" of chemicals, disease, people and resources have all crapped out as liberal to left-liberal fears of a secular apocalypse.

But, it IS Matt Ridley, who's jumped into the shallow pools of both libertarianism and Pop Evolutionary Psychology after showing such hope with "Nature via Nurture" several years ago. He doesn't even tackle global warming. Now, I'm not James Kunstler on that issue, but ... 

And, he gives Peak Oil at least somewhat short shrift, too.

Reality?

Chemicals? No, probably not going to kill us, but ... if they do enough damage to the non-human environment (hermaphroditic fish and amphibians), the domino effect will be more than Ridley allows.

Disease? Yes, mad cow causes fear out of proportion to reality. So does Ebola. But, things like an influenza pandemic? Arguably more likely now than in 1918.

People? Yes, the world's birth rate is slowing, but it's not slowed THAT much yet. And, as more people in the developing world get a few more dinero, they want things like cars, refrigerators and air conditioning. And, as I've blogged before, in India, especially, and a fair amount in China and Brazil, the last two could be huge global warming game changers.

That leads to ...

Resources. Here, Ridley is clearly all wet. No, we won't run out of oil in a decade. But oil prices will likely continue to rise above the rate of inflation, and as the world economy gets more whole, drag inflation with it. And, accelerated global warming will have all sorts of resource impacts.

Yes, homo sapiens or ancestral species have moved before. But, those past climate changes weren't as rapid as this one could well be. Nor were our ancestors tied to modern homes, modern jobs in modern offices, etc. Unless Matt Ridley is a survivalist himself, he probably should be more pessimistic.

Wired Magazine should, too, but it's a firm believer in libertarian type stances, especially when it includes "salvific technologism." Click the tag to see more of what I've written about that.

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