“The remarkable thing about fossil fuels,” says science writer Matt Ridley, “is that when we use them, no other animal is deprived of its livelihood.”
In a fascinating talk, Ridley, the author of The Rational Optimist and other brilliant, eye-opening books, calls our attention to what really should be an obvious fact: “No other animal [than us Homo sapiens sapiens] wants to eat coal, or oil, or gas.” But, he insists, when we fell a tree for our fuel, “we deprive a woodpecker of its life.”
This helps explain why, in so much of the world, animal species are coming back, their populations growing. They are renewing because of our use of non-renewable energy. (Renewable energy, he says, is quite bad for the ecosystem.)
But that’s just one reason burning fossil fuels is a good thing. Another is increased carbon dioxide (CO2).
“What?!?!” — I can hear the enviro-shrieks from here in my bunker. This weekend there were protests around the world about climate change.
But climate change may be a good thing.
Well, at least, the planet is getting greener. The Sahara’s getting greener. Much of the world’s landmasses are re-foresting — that’s even happening in Bangladesh.
I read about widespread reforestation in The Atlantic years ago. I’ve written about this and other greening before. But the reason isn’t simply because our fossil fuel reliance has made agriculture more efficient, thus requiring less land — that disused land can then grow wild, or cultivate non-agribiz plantlife. It’s also because CO2 feeds plants.
The Amazon, Ridley says, is greener than it was mere years ago.
Could later industrial civilization be saving the planet from the depredations of earlier industrial civilization?
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.