A Memorandum for My Sisters

Economic Growth/Poverty and Disease/The Environment

I have long been impressed by Dorothy Rowe’s statement that our psychological state of mind is the result of how we see the world and how we see our place in that world.
Our recent exchange on the global warming controversy revealed starkly to me how dismally you both view the world and this concerns me as it must be quite depressing. I think that your view is wrong and I would like to cheer you up! Let me spell out how I see it.

One of my favourite books is Mat Ridley’s The Rational Optimist. Gail and I heard him speak at the Opera House a few years ago and I loved his opening- “I am here to cheer you up”. I also love the US economist Julian Simon’s encapsulation-

“This is my long-run forecast in brief:

The material conditions of life will continue to get better for most people, in most countries, most of the time, indefinitely. Within a century or two, all nations and most of humanity will be at or above today’s Western living standards.

I also speculate, however, that many people will continue to think and say that the conditions of life are getting worse.” (Julian Simon 1932-98).

You may well be thinking that I am mixing up my concern for the human race with the environment, but as I will try to demonstrate they are inextricably linked.

Let’s start with my favourite graph (click/tap to enlarge it)

It is irrefutable that globalisation, open markets and freer trade have lead to these huge improvements, notwithstanding the massive population increases. It is an extraordinary achievement.

Don’t under estimate the ingenuity of man. Progress is best in South East Asia, China and India, and, at last, there is also progress in Africa. The improvement in poverty numbers (decline) is running five years ahead of the objectives in the Millennium Goals.

As people are lifted out of poverty much greater emphasis is given to education, particularly of women.

Population growth is greatest in the poorest countries. History shows that as standards of living improve, population growth slows and eventually goes negative. Advanced countries like Australia would have negative population growth if it were not for immigration. Latest forecasts are for world population to peak in mid century at about $9.5bn and thereafter decline.

As standards of living improve and survival becomes less challenging, people demand improvements in air and water quality and start dealing with sustainability issues. You only have to recognise the significant environmental improvements in the developed world for evidence of this.

So, in summary, if you care about the environment you need to take a global perspective and first focus on economic growth and the welfare of people. Rather than wasting billions on futile attempts to change the climate and doing negative things that weaken economies, we should simply adapt and place our emphasis on trade, research and development and education with the aim of ridding the world of disease and poverty. The environmental benefits will follow.

Meanwhile rather than lamenting the state of the world we should celebrate its progress and thank God that we were born where we were and do everything we can to support those ideas and organisations which work towards creating ‘heaven on earth’. Cheer-up!!

David Boyd


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