One of the best things about having a garden which is surrounded by woodland is that we are constantly treated to the sound of birdsong. The only jarring note is the rat-tat-tat of the woodpecker, but that’s made up for when the woodpecker flies into view. One of the many reasons to be cheerful now is that the bird population is thriving here – in fact there are now more species of birds breeding in this country than ever before. Cranes, egrets, avocets and marsh harriers are all back, some of them in large numbers. You wouldn’t think so if you listened to the bleating of the RSPB, who constantly seek publicity by saying that this species or that is in peril.
Why is the cat smiling? Cats have ears. Birdsong means lunch.
The truth is that there are many reasons to be cheerful. Here’s the rest of Matt Ridley’s list, following on from my posting on April 5th (See here):
9. The good old days weren’t
Some people argue that in the past there was a simplicity, tranquillity, sociability, and spirituality that’s now been lost. This rose-tinted nostalgia is generally confined to the wealthy. It’s easier to wax elegiac for the life of a pioneer when you don’t have to use an outhouse. The biggest-ever experiment in back-to-the-land hippie lifestyle is now known as the Dark Ages.
10. Population growth is not a threat
Although the world population is growing, the rate of increase has been falling for 50 years. Across the globe, national birth rates are lower now than in 1960, and in the less developed world, the birth rate has approximately halved. This is happening despite people living longer and infant-mortality rates dropping. According to an estimate from the United Nations, population will start falling once it peaks at 9.2 billion in 2075-so there is every prospect of feeding the world forever. After all, there are already seven billion people on earth, and they are eating better and better every decade.
11. Oil is not running out
In 1970, there were 550 billion barrels of oil reserves in the world, and in the 20 years that followed, the world used 600 billion.
So by 1990, reserves should have been overdrawn by 50 billion barrels. Instead, they amounted to 900 billion-not counting tar sands and oil shale that between them contain about 20 times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia. Oil, coal, and gas are finite, but they will last for decades, perhaps centuries, and people will find alternatives long before they run out.
12. We are the luckiest generation
This generation has experienced more peace, freedom, leisure time, education, medicine, and travel than any in history. Yet it laps up gloom at every opportunity. Consumers do not celebrate their wonderful field of choice and, according to psychologists, say they are “overwhelmed.” When I go to my local superstore, I do not see people driven to misery by the impossibility of choice. I see people choosing.
13. Storms are not getting worse
Not at all. While the climate warmed slightly last century, the incidence of hurricanes and cyclones fell. Since the 1920s, the global annual death rate from weather-related natural disasters (that is, the proportion of the world’s population killed rather than simply the overall number) has declined by a staggering 99 percent.
The killing power of hurricanes depends more on wealth than on wind speed. A big hurricane struck the well-prepared Yucatán in Mexico in 2007 and killed nobody. A similar storm struck impoverished Burma the next year and killed 200,000. The best defenses against disaster are prosperity and freedom.
14. Great ideas keep coming
The more we prosper, the more we can prosper. The more we invent, the more inventions become possible. The world of things is often subject to diminishing returns. The world of ideas is not: The ever-increasing exchange of ideas causes the ever-increasing rate of innovation in the modern world. There isn’t even a theoretical possibility of exhausting our supply of ideas, discoveries, and inventions.
15. We can solve all our problems
If you say the world will go on getting better, you are considered mad. If you say catastrophe is imminent, you may expect the Nobel Peace Prize. Bookshops groan with pessimism; airwaves are crammed with doom. I cannot recall a time when I was not being told by somebody that the world could survive only if it abandoned economic growth. But the world will not continue as it is. The human race has become a problem-solving machine: It solves those problems by changing its ways. The real danger comes from slowing change.
16. This depression is not depressing
The Great Depression of the 1930s was just a dip in the upward slope of human living standards. By 1939, even the worst-affected countries, America and Germany, were richer than they’d been in 1930. All sorts of new products and industries were born during the Depression. So growth will resume unless prevented by wrong policies. Someone, somewhere, is tweaking a piece of software, testing a new material, or transferring the gene that will make life easier or more fun.
17. Optimists are right
For 200 years, pessimists have had all the headlines-even though optimists have far more often been right. There is immense vested interest in pessimism. No charity ever raised money by saying things are getting better. No journalist ever got the front page writing a story about how disaster was now less likely. Pressure groups and their customers in the media search even the most cheerful statistics for glimmers of doom. Don’t be browbeaten-dare to be an optimist!