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News of the Day ... In Perspective

10/26/2006

The environmental impact of 300 million persons

News of the 300 millionth American has been accompanied by the usual environmentalist alarms about degradation of the environment and depletion of natural resources.

Yet as the U.S. population increased by 50 percent since 1967, the environment is cleaner by almost every measure, and resources have expanded as new discoveries and new technology have outpaced consumption.

To give just two examples, since 1975, the number of times that Los Angeles air exceeded ozone standards dropped from 192 to 27, despite stricter standards. Although the number of cars and trucks in the U.S. has doubled since 1970, and the number of miles driven has increased by 181 percent, emissions of volatile organic compounds has decreased by 73.8 percent (see 11th Annual Index of Leading Environmental Indicators 2006 by Steven Hayward www.pacificresearch.org).

Proven oil reserves are at an all-time high of 1 trillion barrels. World food production is so efficient that many countries, including the U.S., pay farmers not to grow food in order to prevent a price collapse.

Why the doomsaying? As Patrick J. Michaels wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Mar 9, 2004, “Politics distorts science, particularly environmental science, because 99.99% of those sciences’ financial support comes from the federal government…. In competition for a finite federal outlay, scientists present their particular issues (global warming, cancer, AIDS) in the most urgent light possible, threatening societal ruin if their work isn’t funded” (Joseph D’Agostino, PRI Weekly Briefing 10/20/06, www.pri.org).

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