The Great Cull, or the Long Boom?

When people look back on world history one hundred years from now, what will they see? It is reasonable to suggest they will see a global civilization, back in 2020, that was facing unprecedented challenges and transformations.

The primary challenge, arguably, is a global population that has quintupled between 1900 and 2020. The most transformative factor, an explosion of technology that has taken us from steel and steam in 1900 to quantum mechanics and genetic engineering in 2020.

An optimist would look the last few decades and conclude that, despite the challenges, humanity is on a relentless march towards a better quality of life for everyone. An article published by the BBC earlier this year lists several reasons “why the world is improving,” including rising life expectancy, falling infant mortality, falling rates of fertility, ongoing GDP growth, less income inequality, the spread of democracy, and fewer armed conflicts.

This argument for what Wired Magazine once called the “Long Boom” is embodied in the philosophy of “New Optimism,” with its principal proponent the Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg. According to Lomborg, “air and water are getting cleaner, endangered species and forests are holding their own, and the risks associated with global warming are exaggerated.” He contends that “more people than ever before, living in all parts of the globe, are becoming healthier, richer, and better educated; that the human race is living longer and more peaceably; that we’re considerably freer to pursue our happiness.” Lomborg predicts that in […] Read More