November 18th 2000

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Articles from this issue:

QUARANTINE: Apples decision set to rile city electorates

EDITORIAL: IVF unlimited - time to call a halt

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Vote rigging - the ripples widen

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: DonÂ’t bank on the banks


LAW: International Criminal Court - Parliament by-passed


Straws in the Wind

INTERVIEW: Democracy needs a "virtuous" society - George Weigel

ECONOMICS: Globalisation - what it is, what it isnÂ’t

ASIA: Taiwan enters uncertain waters

COMMENT: Australia before multiculturalism

Reading the trends

AD 2000 and the sky isnÂ’t falling

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2000 and the sky isnÂ’t falling

by Stephan Moore

News Weekly, November 18, 2000
The year: 2000. The place: Earth, a desolate planet slowly dying of its own accumulating follies. Half the forests are gone; sand dunes spread where fertile lands once lay.

Nearly two million species of plants, birds, insects, and animals have vanished. Yet man is propagating so fast that his cities have grown as large as his nations of a century before.

No, the above isn't taken from Stephen King’s latest freaky horror novel. Nor is it from a long-lost episode of The Twilight Zone, or the setting from the latest Star Wars prequel. In fact, it's not science fiction at all. It's real life. Or check that. It's how the left twenty years ago imagined we'd be living today.

The passage comes from a Newsweek description of the blockbuster US Government report called Global 2000, issued in Jimmy Carter’s last year in office. It was one of the most influential and expensive (tax-funded, of course) environmental documents ever published. It was translated into eight languages (unfortunately including English) and sold 1.5 million copies. It was Carter’s going-away gift to the nation and the world: a 1,600-page ode to the misery and malaise of the era he had presided over.

The inevitability of decline was not accepted by all scholars of that era. In 1967 Hudson Institute founder Herman Kahn wrote The Year 2000, one of the most ambitious think tank projects ever undertaken. Kahn’s vision was the antithesis of Global 2000. Although written 13 years before publication of the Carter Administration's anxiety attack, Kahn presented an astonishingly upbeat and accurate glimpse into the future. He saw a world of affluence and abundance with "communism eroded" and democratic capitalism triumphant.

Shortly before his death in 1981, this fabulous futurologist teamed with another contrarian scholar, University of Illinois Professor Julian Simon, to assail the idiocy of Global 2000. Their scathing rebuttal, The Resourceful Earth, challenged virtually every single pessimistic warning in Global 2000, right down to the punctuation marks.

They derisively retitled the Carter report "Globaloney 2000". Not surprisingly, Simon and Kahn were dismissed as quirky and unrealistically Pollyannish by the media and environmental leaders. Paul Ehrlich of The Population Bomb fame sneered that all Kahn and Simon had proved is that "the one thing the world isn’t running out of is imbeciles".

These were the choices we were left with. Two "imbeciles" vs. the entire scientific research team of the United States Government.

In its famous executive summary, Global 2000 forecast that:

"If present trends continue, the world will be more polluted, less stable ecologically, and more vulnerable to disruption than the world we live in now ... the world's people will be poorer ... the outlook for food and other necessities of life will be no better ... for most people on earth life will be more precarious in 2000."

Simon and Kahn retorted that "if present trends continue, the world will be less polluted, more stable ecologically, and less vulnerable to disruption than the world we live in now ... the world's people will be richer ... the outlook for food and other necessities of life will be much better ... for most people on earth life will be less precarious in 2000".

Well, here we are halfway through the year 2000 and ... the sky hasn’t fallen. In almost every measurable way, life on Earth has improved substantially since 1980.

- Stephan Moore, The American Spectator, August 2000

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