Today marks the 50th Earth Day, an appropriate time to pause and reflect on how far things have come since April 22, 1970. It’s also an occasion to consider what past progress can teach us about today’s environmental challenges.
If an attendee of the first Earth Day could travel forward to our time, she would likely expect to find a world of bleakness, suffering and privation. After all, she might have read Paul Erlich’s 1968 book “The Population Bomb,” a best-seller predicting that, unless governments intervened to dramatically reduce human reproduction, hundreds of millions of people would starve every year by the end of the 1970s. Similarly, Life magazine predicted in 1970 that city dwellers would have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution by the end of that decade.
What would our time-traveling environmentalist find instead in 2019? The human population has grown as predicted, but this growth has coincided with a stunning reduction of human suffering. Since 1990, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has fallen from 35 percent to 10 percent, thanks in large part to global trade and an expanding role for free markets. Rather than famine, we’ve experienced one of the greatest miracles in human history as 2 billion people have escaped poverty.
Read the full article in The Hill.