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Simon Says “Be Optimistic on Earth Day 2019”

Well, Julian Simon didn’t actually say these words, but were he still alive, I’m sure that he would do so.

In my latest column for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, I put on my Julian Simon hat and offer reasons to reject the gloom’n’doom’n’guilt-mongering that issue forth every April 22nd. A slice:

• Since 1980 indoor air pollution — mostly from home cooking and heating — has steadily fallen in every region of the planet, as have deaths from such pollution.

• Global deforestation is a myth: Since 1982, an additional 2.24 million square kilometers — over 7%— of the earth’s surface is covered by trees.

• Worldwide since 1990, the portion of the population who die from cancer is down 8 percent, and in the United States. it is down by almost 20%.

• The globe’s proven reserves of petroleum continue to grow; in 2017 proven reserves were 58 percent higher than in 2000 and 165% higher than in 1982.

• Despite steadily increasing extraction of oil, since the 1970s the number of oil spills from tankers is down to a small fraction of what it was 40 years ago.

• Since 1961, world cereals production has nearly doubled.

• Between 1990 and 2015, the portion of the world’s population with regular access to improved sources of drinkable water — such as pipes and protected dug wells — rose from 76% to 91%.

• Between 1992 and 2011, the percentage of the world’s population living on $2 dollars a day or less fell from 27% to 13%.

• Between 1992 and 2010, the percentage of the world’s people aged 15 and older who are literate increased from 75% to 81%.

And then there’s the happy news recently reported by Brigham Young University professor Gale Pooley and the Cato Institute’s Marian Tupy. These researchers have constructed the “Simon Abundance Index,” named after the late University of Maryland economist Julian Simon. Simon was the 20th century’s greatest slayer of doomsday myths about the environment, population growth, and alleged dangers posed to humanity by economic progress.

The Simon Abundance Index is a tool for tracking changes over time in the abundance of a basket of 50 commodities, including copper, maize, natural gas, wool and zinc.

Using this index, Pooley and Tupy find that “our planet was 379.6% more abundant in resources in 2017 than it was in 1980. Put differently, resources were 4.796 times as plentiful in 2017 as they were in 1980.”