The Third Culture John Gilmore

The World Isn't Going to Hell

Media sells your attention to advertisers using bad news. This makes people think the bad news is the real state of the world. Pollution is making the world a worse place, raw materials are being used up, bigger populations are overconsuming us into wretchedness, etc. They even want all of us to waste our time sorting garbage for fear that we'll run out of barren land to put it on!

The real story is that human life has gotten better and better and better over the centuries. The world used to be a very polluted place — if you count deadly infectious bacteria in the environment. Centuries of focus on clean drinking water, separating sewers from food and water supplies, medicine, and nutrition have resulted in human life span being literally doubled and tripled, first in "civilized" countries and then in "developing" countries. China has doubled life-span in this century. Everyone grows up taller and stronger than hundreds of years ago. There is much less pollution in London today than in any recorded century. There is much less pollution in the US today than in any recorded decade. There are more proven oil reserves than ever before, and in fifty years when those have been used, another fifty or sixty years' worth will have been worth locating. There are more acres of forest in North America than a hundred years ago. (There's a market for growing trees now, and they can be transported to where people want to buy the wood! Two hundred years ago it was more work to move wood twenty miles in carts on mud roads, than it was to take it across the Atlantic!) Resources of all types are getting cheaper and cheaper, as measured in decades and centuries. There is no reason to believe that these trends will change. (Remember the people like Paul Erlich who predicted world famine by 2000? They are still making predictions, but you shouldn't believe 'em any more, because it's 2000 and the starving hordes aren't here.)

Prof. Julian Simon was a "liberal who got mugged" — by the facts. He started off trying to prove the environment was getting worse, but whenever he found actual historical data, it contradicted that thesis. Eventually he changed his mind and started writing books about it.

Ultimate Resource 2 is his updated book about how all the resources except one of-a-kind objects are becoming less scarce, except humans. (Human attention commands higher and higher prices over the decades, a trend easily visible in the price of labor, despite there being more humans around.)

The State of Humanity is a very well documented (footnoted) survey of human life, health, and the environment. It points you to actual historical data showing the real long-term trends in human longevity, health, welfare, prices of materials, acres of forest, number of species known, pollution, smoke, you name it he's got it.

Knee-jerk liberals beware! These are the kinds of books that you won't like to read. The interior feeling of a mind stretching is uncomfortable, though the result is well worth it.

JOHN GILMORE is an entrepreneur disguised as a philanthropist. Or perhaps vice verse. He co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the "alt" newsgroups, the Cypherpunks, and 1989 open source company Cygnus Solutions. He's been pushing encryption technology out of government spy agency control for 15 years. He's a big believer in civil rights, even for Internet users and those who like drugs. He thinks nation-states have killed more people than any other single force in history, and wishes to see them wither to a tiny fraction of their current size and power over their citizens. And he refuses to "recycle" his trash — if it's worth it to you, you can recycle it.