Friday, April 20, 2012

A Contract with the Earth 20

In my latest reading of A Contract with the Earth, Newt Gingrich and Terry Maple appear to disapprove of hysterical scenarios about potential environmental and other catastrophes, for they believe that cooler heads can develop technology that will save the day. For example, Y2K was averted through technology, and some of the technology installed to prevent Y2K allowed some potential 9/11 problems to be circumvented years later. And, although Stanford Professor Paul Ehrlich in 1968 predicted that there would be a world famine between 1970 and 1985 due to overpopulation, what happened was quite different, according to Newt and Maple: "Instead, the world experienced a precipitous drop in fertility and food was exported by the United States at record levels because of the effects of the so-called green revolution in agriculture" (page 186).

As I have read A Contract with the Earth, I have wondered about the stance on climate change that is held by Newt and Maple. On the one hand, they don't care for apocalyptic scenarios, and they appear to express some doubt as to the extent to which human beings are causing climate change. On the other hand, they advocate the reduction of CO2 emissions, which implies that they believe that humans are contributing to climate change, on some level. In my latest reading, they say that we should seek to reduce CO2 emissions (through public and private encouragement of new technologies) in order to mitigate climate change, and, if that doesn't work, then we'll have to find a way to adapt. Newt and Maple affirm on page 193 that "We cannot afford to be wrong about global climate change", but they do not think that doomsday scenarios and paranoia really help the situation.

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