I sometimes enjoy Peter HitchensÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢ÃƒÂ‚ antidote to mainstream trendy Neo-Liberal thinking, but fear he is on some subjects in bad company and a tad ill-informed. No rational person could deny volumes of hard evidence showing the exponential rise in humanityÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s collective impact on our planetÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s delicate ecosystem, both in terms of our numbers (rising from just 750 million at the start of the industrial revolution to 7 billion now) and our per capita consumption. Our population will probably peak in the next 10 to 30 years, but at the expense of adopting modern high-consumption lifestyles. And now 2500 million Chinese and Indians are preparing to join the mass consumer frenzy, resources that previously seemed almost unlimited, are nearing depletion.ÃƒÂ‚
The fact that scientific forecasts have so often proven wrong should lead us to take a more rather than a less cautious, and thus conservative, approach to future development. Climatologists know full well our climate is subject to multiple natural and, dare I say, anthropogenic factors, but manÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s impact on our environment has reached unprecedented levels. But climate change is just one of many potential side effects of our rapid overdevelopment. James Lovelock has merely conceded that some of the more alarmist forecasts made 20 years ago have not been supported by subsequent observations. So what! They were just forecasts. Meanwhile, other forecasts, such as available oil reserves in Saudi Arabia, have also turned out to be gross exaggerations. ThatÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢s why Brazilian geologists are busy surveying fossil fuel deposits 2 miles below the surface of Mid Atlantic Ocean, the Chinese are sealing deals with Nigerian businessmen and Western Oil companies see Libya as a mere gateway to oil in Chad and Darfur, despite the huge costs of building pipelines and other infrastructure.
Wishful thinking cornucopians would like to see the current era of cheap mass motoring for all continue without drastic consequences and place blind faith in scientists to find to magic techno-fixes. Climate change denial, so popular in Neo-Conservative circles, has little to do with any understanding of the actual climate (which may get warmer, colder, wetter or drier in different parts of the globe) and everything to do with the same culture of entitlement Mr Hitchens so rightly denounces in his columns. Claiming to have a god-given right to drive your car to a suburban shopping mall, funded by your non-productive marketing job, is just the same as claiming a right to welfare handouts to subsidise your hedonistic idleness. If we are to tackle our very real environmental challenges and avoid unprecedented loss of life resulting from a grotesque overconsumption, we need to power down.