The Great Earth Day Yawn

Wait—yesterday was Earth Day! I must have yawned right through it. Like most Americans, if you go by the surveys showing increasing public indifference toward environmentalism.

I used to make a big deal out of Earth Day, pointing out for years that the data in rich countries showed an almost unbroken record of significant environmental improvement is just about every major category. This would send environmentalists into howls of outrage, because good news is bad news for Crisis Entrepreneurs.TM A good example of the broken (plastic!) record of environmentalism comes to us this morning courtesy of the usually half-sober folks at Nature magazine:

Well duh. Every adverse condition hits poorer countries first, BECAUSE THEY’RE POOR! I guess the Nature editors have never heard the old joke about how the New York Times would cover the imminent end of the world: “World to End Tomorrow: Women, Minorities Hardest Hit.” Maybe they have heard it, and don’t get it, which is entirely typical of people deprived of a sense of humor because of their fanaticism.

Just a hunch here, but if you ask people in poor countries what they’d most like to see the world emphasize right now—rich countries cutting their carbon emissions, or helping poor countries get rich—I’m pretty sure I know which option they’d choose. Because, based on the revealed preferences of what kind of energy systems poor countries are building—hint: a lot of it rhymes with “goal”—tell us the answer pretty clearly. Or ask yourself this question: which country is more able to handle any natural disaster from whatever cause: Singapore, or next-door Malaysia? This is the reason India has consistently said they want to get rich first before signing on to any future energy constraints.

Beyond the fading issue of climate change, the entire story arc of environmental disaster from the first Earth Day in 1970 has just about run its course. Increasingly you see more and more evidence of the spreading recognition of the dominance of human progress in all areas, whether it is Steven Pinker’s new book, Enlightenment Now, or Charles Mann’s new book The Wizard and the Prophet (about how Norman Borlaug routed Paul Ehrlich in the real world), or the copious data work of Max Roser’s terrific data analysis project at Oxford University, Our World in Data, or a similar efforts housed at the Cato Institute,, just to name a few.

But perhaps my favorite effort at the moment is the posthumously published book just out from Hans Rosling, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. Rosling, who passed away last year at the too early age of 68, was called “the Jedi master of data” for his inventive ways of explaining trends. He founded the indispensable website called Gapminder (check it out—it makes data analysis fun!) A main reason for doing the book is that Rosling notes that even world leaders labor under huge misconceptions about the true state of humanity. “And this leads to terrible decisions. . . How is it possible that so many people are getting so many things so wrong?”

This five-minute video shows his kids explaining the project, and includes a couple of short explanations from the late Hans Rosling:

And here’s one of his classics—200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 minutes:

The left simply hates this kind of analysis.


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