“People, like any creature with no natural predator, will continue to spread beyond the capacity of their environment.”
Should I live to 80, the global population will have increased fourfold in my lifetime, more than double the population when the Club of Rome called for zero growth in 1972. For the average non environmental scientist, it is easier to divide the environment into the original Greek elements: fire, water, earth and air. Fires are currently raging, considered (unscientifically) as evidence of “global warming,” modified to “climate change” when the planet started cooling. Land use is also a serious global problem as the run-off into rivers and oceans is unbounded.
People respond to visual cues: when the Cuyahoga River burned in downtown Cleveland for weeks, America cleaned up its rivers. When scientists vividly described a hole in the ozone layer, consumers replaced chlorofluorocarbons in cars and refrigerators in 1987 as part of the Montreal Protocol.
Unlike the Cuyahoga River fire, environmentalism today is rather like the US debt, another intergenerational transfer that also reflects human nature. Current sacrifices can potentially reduce the projected magnitude of sacrifices forced upon future generations, but some economists argue based on UN income forecasts that future generations will be so wealthy that the high costs we would bear today will be relatively painless in the future, the environmental equivalent of “growing out of the debt problem.”