I’d say that the Club of Rome and Paul Ehrlich were the biggest losers on enviro/economic issues of the 20th century.
Thomas Malthus get’s the prize for the 19th.
Here below is an account of how Bill Gates thinks Paul Ehrlich was maybe wrong–think maybe–when he predicted a famine and overpopulation that would cause world wide suffering and decline.
If you’re paying attention, you know that my hero of economic historians and realistic analysts of the human condition is Julian Simon, author of The Ultimate Resource, (1981) and Ultimate Resource II (1996) that explained why Thomas Malthus was a very ignorant pessimist and Paul Ehrlich and the Club of Rome were just as bad even though they had a century to consider Malthus’ silly analysis. Simon said that Malthus was wrong because he assumed that humans beings were just animals who could not think or invent or adjust or create and would just reproduce and eat themselves into famine and death like a bunch of cattle.
Not close. There are long and complicated explanations for why Malthus, Ehrlich and the Club of Rome were wrong, why Hong Kong and other hgihly dense cities work, but mostly Ehrlich was wrong for a lack of humility, and the same with the snots from the Club of Rome. They failed to look at the reality on the ground–humans are special, versatile and creative and cannot be analyzed as just herds of things that eat what they find, particularly after they reached a critical level of socialization and sophistication, started to gather as civilizations and cities that resulted in specialists and division of labor.
I would warn you that Bill Gates is rich and smart but not wise. His knowledge on economics and demographics runs to the left and his regrets abut Ehrlich didn’t keep him from being obsessed about population control. He was influenced by another oligarch/plutarch, who was obsessed about the human cancer on the planet–Warren Buffett.
Wish we could use the millions they have spent on birth control to invigorate the western civilizations to increase reproduction and maybe provide some critical improvements in infrastructure in the 3rd world.
Nobody ever said rich guys know how to do charity work.
Now that we have a decline in fertility in the world, Gates won’t be alive when his fears about overpopulation are dispelled. Our problem now is not enough young to support the old, and it will get worse. However, as you can see–Gates is a true believer. And he’s rich, so he will always be able to be a true believer.