Our first lecture, and the talk which followed, reminded me of an article titled “Global Warming Was Worth It” (link below) that my Meteorology professor, David Epstein, shared with me during Jan Plan. The article’s author, David Harsanyi, argues that the benefits to society from the Industrial Revolution far outweigh its costs, and I agree. In our first class together we examined numerous gloomy graphs demonstrating rising population and CO2 levels. We also studied inflammatory maps showing predicted global temperatures. Neither Mr. Harsanyi nor I deny the very real threats the world faces from the pollution, population growth, and climate change depicted in these graphics; however, focusing only on these statistics ignores the positive aspects and trends that have come with modern society. Increased life expectancy, increased freedom (career, religious, movement, etc.), increased food security, lower poverty rates, better technology, new levels of comfort, and access to more knowledge than our ancestors could have ever imagined; we have the Industrial Revolution to thank for all of this. Humans are the most adaptable species on the planet, and I have confidence in our ability to solve the problems presented to us. Let us not forget that this very ability comes from advanced scientific understanding of the world around us, the ability to share information instantly and collaborate around the world, and technological advancements that have taken place as part of the Industrial Revolution. Some people might say that the Industrial Revolution, and the pollution and global warming that has accompanied it, have been detrimental to humans and the planet; however, I think that the improvements in quality of life and expanding knowledge base show otherwise. Were mistakes made? Yes. Could we have approached our rapid development and growth in a more cautious and considerate manner? Probably. But, in the words of Mr. Harsanyi, “would it have been better for humanity to avoid an “Age of Pollution” and wallow in a miserable pre-Industrial Age, where poverty, death, disease and violence, were far more prevalent in our short miserable lives? Or would we have chosen global warming?” I think the answer is clear, and I am glad that the latter option was selected. Now the question is, what do we do with our new understandings of how our actions affect the world around us? With cars becoming more efficient, and increase in sustainable farming practices, and scientific discoveries taking place at an astonishing rate, I am excited to see how humanity continues to improve our situation while working on solving the issues we now realize the entire planet faces.
And if you are interested, here is another more recent article by the same author, arguing the same point.