The environmentalists say we’re doomed if we don’t drastically reduce consumption. The technologists say that human ingenuity can solve just about any problem. A debate that’s been around for decades has become a shouting match. Is anyone right?

United States


00:00:01at one point I was gonna call the book to learn for ten billion that was vetoed by my editor for some reason Charles C. Mann is a journalist who writes big books about the history of science its current interest is the modern environmental movement the modern environmental movement
00:00:18which I would argue is the only successful ideology to emerge in the twentieth century by the middle of the twenty first century the global population is expected to reach ten billion and the question is are we going to be able to satisfy all the demands for food water
00:00:32energy also Tobler on because in addition to food and water in the basics are on occasional treats and there's one more big concern are gonna deal with climate change those of the big challenges the future of food water energy and climate change big challenges indeed how will those
00:00:49challenges be met too wasted been suggested over arching ways to represent if you like pulls on a continuum and they've been fighting with each other for decades that fight and those two world views are the subject of Charles Manson latest book which he wound up calling the wizard
00:01:07and the profit profit sounds the alarm and wants us all to cut back the wizard urges us to charge forward confident the technology will solve our problems surely you've heard these profits in wizard speaking to us and usually speaking past each other Russian would be justified in looking
00:01:28back at us and asking what thank with the sign we're saying could you hear what my screaming the way to have a dramatic messages to say we're all going to die the profit encourages a return to nature we need to re plant and save rain forests the wizard
00:01:47finds the profit suggestions ninety what that argument is so absurd on so many levels that the miracle is that there are people who can say it with a straight face the profits his grave danger in the immediate future we're going to be into tipping points the arctic is
00:02:03going to go we're going to see a sea level rise will wipe out islands the wizard is more optimistic I think that if we put our heads together we will come up with ways to cope but that's no fun compared to say we're all gonna die next Thursday
00:02:19today I'm for economics radio are you more profit for wizard why end is anyone right from scripture and governor productions this is Freakonomics radio the podcast explores the hidden side of everything here's your host Stephen debonair when Charles man was in college there was a book that showed
00:02:56up on the reading list in several classes ecology you know political science demography so we had the chance to read it several times it was called the population bomb it was a warning on the cover while you are reading these words it said four people have died from
00:03:13starvation most of them children and it really hit home and I thought oh my gosh missionary which is first editions of the re massive famines in the nineteen seventies basically is that we are in deep deep trouble and then in the nineteen eighties and then in the nineteen
00:03:28eighties I sort of noticed this hadn't happened so where the famine predictions simply wrong or was the doom saying a calculated strategy designed to shrink the earth's population for was too late environmentalists were saying humankind was pushing the earth's limits technologists meanwhile said those limits were nowhere in
00:03:49sight with the world is finite obviously and the real question is not whether limits weather limits are relevant at some point we do run out of planet but what exactly that limit is and %HESITATION when we're gonna hit it I I think is much less well known than
00:04:05than either side says it is so did you come to feel then that both camps rather than wizards and profits we can call them you know techno optimists and environmentalists did you do you feel that both camps to some degree intentionally misrepresented their strength in order to %HESITATION
00:04:21in engender support when in fact the reality and indeed most solutions are probably much more new once in the I think so much about the intentionally because the people who convinced I think that neither side truly appreciates how much of a leap in the dark jumping into the
00:04:39future is %HESITATION they're both overly confident that we know we're doing take energy for instance %HESITATION you know these the best solution for the profits is this whole sort of neighborhood solar thing but that depends and they're being innovations in computer technology and innovations in energy storage and
00:04:59energy transmission that simply aren't here yet maybe they can be done but you know do we actually know how to do it now simile the wizards they typically imagine in a very very large numbers of next generation nuclear plants and they argue totally rationally totally correctly these have
00:05:17the smallest environmental footprint of any form of energy generation are completely right about this but I am not actually seeing that happening no innocent nobody seems to be building these things next generation nuclear plants been around for thirty or forty years at least on the drawing board and
00:05:34only a few of them actually ever been tried so you wonder how is that going to happen both of these house is going to happen while wrestling with the best ways to move forward when it comes to energy food water and climate change Charles man found himself looking
00:05:49backward specifically to men the wizard and the profit who make up the title of his new book its subtitle is two remarkable scientists and their dueling versions to shape tomorrow's world let's start with your profit William votes so tell us briefly about him and why he was the
00:06:10one who qualified to become the profit in your book he is more than anyone else the progenitor of the modern environmental movement in the basic idea of it is one of limits he called the carrying capacity in this is that the earth the environment another idea he invented
00:06:26the environment is governed by these ecological processes and we transgress them at our peril and therefore we have to hunker down we have to you know put on a cardigan sweaters and turned on the thermostat need lower on the food chain and all that sort of stuff any
00:06:41put this all together in a book now forgotten but was hugely influential called road to survival was published in nineteen forty eight and it's the first modern world going to hell book if you know what I mean as apocalyptic as his own beliefs and predictions were the title
00:06:56itself %HESITATION connotes at least survival if not prosperity was the road to survival basically hope that a lot more people don't get born and or a lot of people die and we have enough to go around and we get small much of the book is a passionate screed
00:07:14for population control sometimes %HESITATION written in language that %HESITATION makes you cringe another big chunk of the book is about how we should do things in a way that fits better with in nature and that's things like stop farming within marginal land it's you know paying attention to
00:07:33erosion it's not over use of fertilizer so when you say that his discussion about population growth makes you cringe was it from a classicist perspective the cringing comes from a racist how would you describe it I would say yes both he was the basically pretty misanthropic and it
00:07:53it's hard to avoid noticing that although he was very very hard rich white people and you know over consumption and you know being wasteful and destructive and so forth that the brunt of the population reductions of he's talking about are in poor brown people in other parts of
00:08:11the world and %HESITATION he sometimes described them in language that is really kind of appalling he talks about Indians breeding with the irresponsibility of caught fish and so forth in this he was very much a man of that time unfortunately and this is something that %HESITATION environmentalists today
00:08:28should be aware of and think about in that their movement has some pretty deep roots in some pretty bad places million votes were inspired the first bestselling environmental book silent spring by Rachel Carson here's courses can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of
00:08:52poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life in books lake in the population bomb and al gore's first book earth in the balance limits to growth all these great environmental classics all stem directly from his work and so that's why I picked
00:09:08him William vote was born in nineteen oh two on Long Island New York back when it was largely bucolic and then it was just in Gulf by suburbanization so he tried to find nature he ends up in a Brooklyn Slammin is plucked from that goes to one of
00:09:22the schools we have in New York where the deserving poor you mean given special education becomes the first college graduate in his family with a degree in French literature and %HESITATION a degree in French literature was probably as useful in career building then as it is now and
00:09:38%HESITATION he turned to ornithology he was a passionate birdwatcher that's %HESITATION I should mention that he had polio as well and he went all over the place despite finding great difficulty walking having canes embraces it having to be hauled around and and so forth is a gutsy guy
00:09:53and through a whole series of unlikely circumstances he ends up becoming the kind of official ornithologist of the Peruvian government on these guano islands %HESITATION which of these islands off the coast of Peru and these islands ahead see birds roosting on them for millennia upon millennia and the
00:10:11sea birds do what they do which is to eat fish nearby and excrete huge quantities of bird poop I'm allowed to say that on your answer are absolutely you you guys are just you know hang loose yeah yeah yeah get and this in the eighteen fifties became the
00:10:28origin of today's %HESITATION hugely important fertilizer industry these vast heaps of bird poop that were on these islands off the coast of Peru and they became very very important to the proving government %HESITATION to maintain the supply of poop you need to maintain supply birds in the nineteen
00:10:44thirties the spy birds are declining and they brought him in as he said to augment the increment of excrement and %HESITATION he spent three years there and he actually did %HESITATION a kind of a remarkable piece of %HESITATION of ecological %HESITATION science a foundational piece which is he
00:11:03realize that there is a oscillation of the currents there it's cold and so today el Nino line union and he argued that when the warm water came in when the el Nino face came in the anchovies enteritis excuse me which were the fish that the birds ate on
00:11:19these islands swam far out into the Pacific to avoid the warm water the like cold water in the birds couldn't reach them and this recurring found put a cap on the number of birds that you could have on these islands and you could not augment the increment of
00:11:35excrement that nature set these bounds and if he did increase the bird supply would just mean that things were were temporarily things would be worse when the %HESITATION next el Nino came in and this is this powerful insight for him this is the way nature worked any he
00:11:55put it together and then he made two big steps which I think her %HESITATION enormously important one is that he said this kind of phenomenon which is called the carrying capacity means that the only so much can be produced because of these natural limits could be extraction taffy
00:12:12to cover the entire world the world can be thought of as a single environment with a single caring capacity and the second he said is that we're exceeding or were about to exceed it and that's going to bring us into trouble William vote predicted specifically personally he predicted
00:12:27famine which as you write hasn't come true so in in the nineteen forties the global famine death rate was about seven hundred eighty five people per hundred thousand to call eight hundred per hundred thousand now three per hundred thousand so missing this as a profit do you need
00:12:43to be right or is it enough to sound the alarm because obviously on on that dimensional east of prediction of famine and %HESITATION population white out he would vote was wildly wrong now I think they're too our response to the the first is okay you're right it didn't
00:13:01happen but it will happen eventually we just got the time thing wrong and the second response which %HESITATION to my way of thinking at least is is more nuanced is you're right we can get that right but a lot of the other things he predicted we did get
00:13:13right and that is true nitrogen pollution's a huge issue I mean about forty percent of the fertilizer that's been used didn't get absorbed by plants and get either went up in the air where it interferes the ozone layer and not a good idea or becomes nitrous oxides closer
00:13:26to the ground in the year witches because all kinds of health problems or even worse it goes into the streams which goes into the rivers which goes into the ocean because these enormous blooms of algae and other aquatic plants these die they fall down to the bottom microorganisms
00:13:41consume them it's sort of an orgy of breakfast and the metabolism quickly they suck all the oxygen out of the year and get these huge dead sons in coastal areas around the world and you can go on and on all that stuff you know if you point to
00:13:55that they're looking better at the same time as William vote the profit was sounding the alarm on over population and what he saw as the resultant famine it was another scientist who's discoveries would lead to a dramatic growth of the global population this is the wizard in Charles
00:14:15Mann's book is name Norman Borlaug yes for a very poor family in Iowa poor soil terrible hardscrabble farm work like a dog he was determined to get off of that he really hated it clearly his is on his way to do it because he didn't was very smart
00:14:33was athletics %HESITATION to that he needed to go to college which he was able to do really thanks to the fact that Henry Ford invented the cheap tractor which let his family free him up from the labor yes right freedom of from labor and even more important when
00:14:46you have horses and you know oxen and so forth doing labor for you you have to grow food for them and you have to take an tend to them and they're just huge time sinks and their land sings in a typical small farmer in those days about forty
00:14:59percent of the families land was devoted to growing the food for the animals that was one of my favorite statistics in your book I mean it's one of those things that the minute you see it it makes perfect sense but I never would have imagined it exactly almost
00:15:12like doubling your land and of course your land becomes more productive at tractors a huge huge deal on two dimensions at least right in terms of making more available land and and obviously increasing the pace of the labor right making people's lives better and also being able to
00:15:28accomplish more of just you know you it's vastly better do thanks to that tractor or log did go to college he studied forestry and eventually got a PhD in plant pathology and genetics during World War two he worked at DU Pont trying to make waterproof ration boxes and
00:15:47mold proof condom wrappers then he got a job with the Rockefeller Foundation trying to boost the production of wheat in Mexico and the remarkable thing is he succeeded despite not knowing Spanish never having been out of the country never having bread wheat before hardly having worked with wheat
00:16:03before and we genomes terrifically complicates five times as many genes as their human genes and because plants can do weird things that males can't at this three copies of each gene on every cell insular six different versions of each gene is just a mess so his breakthrough came
00:16:17about from what you describe is shuttled breeding can you describe a why that was unusual why more people didn't try that and be why it worked more people didn't try it because it was literally written in the textbooks that wouldn't work fan and the thing with you so
00:16:33ignorant very occasionally ignorance is good and what he thought to do was plant breeding is very slow because in most places is only one crop of wheat that you grow a year it's identical winter spring wheat and then you have to wait an entire year to grow the
00:16:47next and there'd been a dogma that you have to breed the crop in the area which is going to be ground and he thought wait a minute what if I grow one crop in you know the south of Mexico one crop in the north of Mexico where it's
00:17:01warmer in that way I can do to hear and make things go twice as fast well Borlaug found a way through as you said grit and lock and and a and a handful of other things to make we a much much much more productive and %HESITATION much more
00:17:17flexible crop in this gave way to what we we came to call the green revolution and bore log went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in circus to talk to me about the consequences of really this one man and and what he helped produce good and bad
00:17:33consequences with a good consequences are really striking if you look at the data shortly after the green revolution wheat production in Mexico just source it basically quadruples the same techniques come to the American Midwest and that's when the American Midwest becomes a huge agricultural powerhouse are we yields
00:17:56just increased enormously goes to India and Pakistan same thing then the Rockefeller Ford Foundation are excited by what they're seeing in in wheat and they set up the international rice research institute outside the Philippines and the resolve to do the same thing with rice and yields triple there
00:18:15in the world just gross enormously more food in sometime in the nineteen eighties for the first time in recorded history the average person on earth has enough food year round in famine itself for famine induced by war basically ends it's a huge moment tonight I sort of think
00:18:34that should be taught in schools so that's the good part is a huge good part okay so let's talk about the downsides of the green revolution one of them you right is that it essentially fueled income inequality land became more valuable you know it it just created a
00:18:47lot of leverage on the other hand the alternative would be that everyone gets to be poor and hungry other than maybe warlords and kings right so how much credence should we give inequality has the downside of the green revolution I think you should give quite a bit of
00:19:02credence to because we say inequality it's sort of minimizes the the actual experience just as we are talking about when a small holders farm is able to grow four times as much food the land becomes four times as much valuable Anna becomes worth stealing and in countries with
00:19:19very weak institutions which is unfortunate most of the world it was stolen often with the active support of %HESITATION the elites in the in in the government and huge numbers of people were pushed off the farms and forced into %HESITATION slums and in communities were broken up and
00:19:35what about the environmental costs of the green revolution in the big environmental costs of this are nitrogen pollution what we talked about before so did bore log later in life acknowledge the costs of the growth that he helped produce kind of I mean there's a way that when
00:19:53you convert somebody in and somebody is carping that you say well yes but and you acknowledge what they do and then you brush past it he's a wait a minute the work that we've done has saved hundreds of millions of people from starvation that's a big deal and
00:20:11there's no upside without a downside so okay yeah there's a downside but holy cow and I think that's pretty easy to understand I should tell you that I talked briefly with or log before his death an article just come out that was trying to estimate the impact of
00:20:24the green revolution and said that %HESITATION broadens people he looked at carefully had her saved six hundred million lights so I put this to him and he was a noted an exceptionally modest guy in very personally attractive guy and he said oh you know I think that number
00:20:40is exaggerated in it was a whole bunch of people and it wasn't just me and all the things he's Christmas and I said okay look suppose that they're off by an order of magnitude and you yourself are only responsible for saving sixty million lives as I feel is
00:20:54a long pause as you know what it feels pretty good Norman Borlaug died in two thousand nine but the legacy of his wizardry lives on in force not only in the modern day miracle of global agriculture but in the belief that science and technology can save lives coming
00:21:14up after the break we'll hear from one such believer the technologist anything near full you know there was no golden age of mankind that was better than today that's the first point William both died way back in nineteen sixty eight his legacy also roars on countless profits warning
00:21:32us the coming dangers we'll hear from one of them to former president of Ireland and you in high commissioner for human rights how could we be mad enough cruel enough insane enough to have a world for our children and grandchildren which will be on the table and that
00:21:49is for for heading towards at the moment that's coming up right after this if you want to hear more Freakonomics radio you can find every episode going all the way back to two thousand ten on the stitcher apps and that Freakonomics dot com and you can always listen
00:22:02to the most recent three months worth of episodes on apple's podcasts Spotify or every get your podcast we've been speaking with the author Charles C. Mann so you call your book the wizard and the profit not the wizard versus the profit but in some ways it is asking
00:22:32us as readers to judge the two men and the movements that they helped create %HESITATION against each other it strikes me a little bit at is an unfair fight in that wizards actually do stuff they invent things and they push new ideas and systems and products where's off
00:22:50its it seems at least to me primarily shake their fist against the sky and urge people to stop doing things and I failed to five completely convinced of the profits don't do anything because I I don't think that's really true I think there is certainly a lot of
00:23:05the crying and shaking going out you know that that's the right but they are arguing for really in a different way of life and if you like a different kind of technology so there is this clash but it really represents a preference for different kinds of technology which
00:23:21need to be invented and supported rather and that idea of a technology versus decrying technology although you're actually right there is an overtone it's time now to hear from a modern day profit one with impressive credentials Mary Robinson I am president now if the matter Robinson foundation climate
00:23:39justice former president of Ireland former UN High Commissioner for human rights let's talk for a moment about what you've been doing between the U. N. position and now you've you've just written a book called climate justice some I'd love to know about the road in politics that led
00:23:54you to this topic well in a way I'm quite lace coming to the importance of climate change in undermining and the casing human rights and when I finished my seven years as president of islands in nineteen ninety seven I became High Commissioner for human rights I don't remember
00:24:13making any significant speech because another part of the U. N. was dealing with a time of change it was when I started work in Africa on behalf of the small NGOs and everywhere I went in Africa people kept saying things are so much worse and it was the
00:24:29unpredictability of the weather people did know when to fold and then the harvest will be destroyed and the rainy seasons wouldn't come and I realized my goodness I miss this this is a huge issue of human rights and it's so on just so unfair and that's why I
00:24:45don't talk about climate change I talk about climate justice you argued that our environmental problems are at heart human rights injustices largely committed by big rich countries like the U. S. against small import countries than and it's an argument I'm sure resonates for for many many people on
00:25:02the other hand the technology and resources from rich countries also have a lot of benefits you know food production just to take one how do you find the middle ground have conversations that are not so accusatory toward the big rich polluting countries I think that's climate justice finds
00:25:20a very good balance and this because we do acknowledge the injustice of the fact that the emissions have been calls historically particularly by the richer countries and now also by the emerging the China's on the India's and rushes etcetera buds and and that that has a big negative
00:25:40impact on food security on life security on health on so many things for poor developing countries were not responsible for the emissions but we also say that we once and when we moved to this renewable energy world which would be so much better for help for jobs as
00:25:58a for that there is a fairness in ensuring that the poor countries and particularly the poor people in those four countries get the benefits we need to get to those one billion people who never switch the switch for electricity we've now got off grid solutions we need to
00:26:13get to the women in particular who cook on open fires with animal dung coal and wood and ingest and die in very large numbers from and from that inhalation and we need to make this you know kind of an engagement of people in solidarity with all the it's
00:26:32a really interesting not a conflict quite you raise but a two headed problem I guess %HESITATION you know technologists and I guess you could include economists in there you know they often advocate for certain set of solutions to problems whether it's famine or pollution or someone van environmentalists
00:26:49do and I think you know it nears a little bit political partisanship whereby %HESITATION there's very little little middle ground and very little collaboration trying to convert people who are using animal dung as fuel obviously that would require a technological solution that may require more energy from the
00:27:12grid so can you talk about what the two camps if we if we consider that it truly to be two camps and say environmentalists on one side and real technologists on the other what are some ways to accomplish a middle ground that you've seen in action that you
00:27:27think are scalable I'm not so sure as you put the issue that way that we have the kind of middle ground you're talking about we have to get out of coal rapidly period we have to get out of oil and gas pretty quickly and be out of all
00:27:42three by twenty fifty to have that say for old and what is happening and I have to say this quite unequivocally the fossil fuel world is using the tactics of the tobacco industry is using these tactics to muddy the signs delay things and denied that there is a
00:28:00real problem and unfortunately as we know at president trump has put in quite a number of climate deniers how do we understands that the new economy is the renewable energy economy M. solar and wind up becoming so much cheaper the very competitive far more competitive than coal we
00:28:17need to have that shift so you're calling for the global community however that can be created or defined to come together to carry out climate justice talk to me about what you see as big previous successes in the global community coming together to solve problems well one example
00:28:37is when we knew there was a threat to the ozone layer we came together with the Montreal convention to make sure that what was causing the problem with the ozone would be completely banned we need to have exactly the same attitude to climate change I mean it has
00:28:51been said and said very eloquently we're the first generation to really understand the dangers of climate change and that's why we have the Paris commitment to stay well below two degrees of warming and work for one point five degrees be carbon neutral by twenty fifty meaning out of
00:29:07greenhouse gases a coal oil gas etcetera and we're the first generation to understand all of this and the last generation with time and opportunity to make sure we do get out of this we're going to be into tipping points the arctic is going to go we're going to
00:29:22see you know a sea level rise will wipe out islands how could we be mansion of cruel enough insane enough to have a world for our children and grandchildren which from the honorable and that is before heading towards at the moment we need to have a dramatic messages
00:29:48to say we're all going to die needs in your world the former chief technology officer of Microsoft and now CEO of an invention and technology firm called intellectual ventures you know if you said all my god this look changes the food system mean we're all going to die
00:30:05is a lot worse losing trainloads of some men were all going to be at least five pounds heavier than we would ideally like to be I mean it's just so you don't get any fatter that if you had to declare yourself let's say X. percent profit and why
00:30:20percent wizard with profit representing environmentalist and concerned about population and the environment and wizard representing technology may be techno optimist what are those numbers for you in a thin layer of old %HESITATION probably ninety ten okay and you know if you push me it might be ninety eight
00:30:41to the part where I would differ from many environmentalists is I also understand that technology is not just a bad thing that got us in this terrible situation technology is also our salvation and the notion that we have caused problems in our society which we have to fix
00:31:02in at least in part through technology that is the story of mankind so the economist has said that you have quote an unshakable belief that human ingenuity will sort everything out what's up belief based on other than you know history well it historical experience here we mean other
00:31:20than history our species is faced many many great challenges and when we face a great challenge one of the things that we fall back on is technology and frankly that is what distinguishes us from other creatures not most animals have to undergo biological evolution they can't learn and
00:31:45undergo a cultural evolution when we went from being hunters and gatherers to being agricultural us that wasn't because we evolved new kinds of Liam's meant for agriculture what it meant was we learned how to sew crops and harvest them and build a civilization that could stay in one
00:32:06place because we had a regular food supply and every time we have a really powerful technology that really changes the world well of course there's problems that come up and if you can blame technology but I think the constant amount equation is is humans so of course we
00:32:27will over exploit things of course we will do a set of of things that is very much human nature but for most problems we wind up realizing and eventually we fix it but a profit might say well just because technology or technologies were the solution to one set
00:32:47of problems doesn't mean it will be the solution to the next set of problems and indeed if one makes the argument of any profits do that these problems are actually the result of technologies that indeed the most natural solution would be the opposite of that which is some
00:33:02kind of reversion some kind of return to a more natural state a smaller popular someone when you say to that argument that argument is so absurd on so many levels that the the miracle is that there are people who can say it with a straight face you don't
00:33:21there was no golden age of mankind there was better than today that's the first point you know that there's a lot of the %HESITATION let's harken back to those wonderful days you know when the feudal lord impressed us when the number one killer of women was childbirth when
00:33:39infant mortality was fifty percent all yeah I really want those days back in order to worship the past you have to have a very bizarre filter on to filter out those aspects of the past that you don't like look at the single biggest thing that would help world
00:33:56population is to get a higher standard of living in the parts of the world where it still crushingly bad if the bottom two billion people the world had a better lifestyle ironically that's what would lower their population and help them have a better life still going forward this
00:34:19is a point on which mere bold and Mary Robinson wizard and profit happen to agree we know exactly what will reduce population it's educating girls and women and it's having a health system that works universal access to good healthcare and we've seen in countries all over the world
00:34:40that the population comes down very rapidly when you educate girls and women and have a health system that functions on the issue of carbon emissions and climate change meanwhile not much agreement between wizard and profit there I am not saying that global warming is a solved problem I
00:34:58think is an incredibly hard problem to solve so I'm not saying all of our problems are trivial far from it I think that if we put our heads together we will come up with ways to cope and maybe eliminate and that is a really important thing near boulder
00:35:17spent some time thinking about technological solutions to the climate change problem so climate change is a one percent effect now all we have to do is make of the sun one percent dimmer now I don't literally mean changing the sun but there are a variety of things that
00:35:35bounced sunlight back into space clouds are one of those things white clouds bounce white light back up into space it turns out the volcano's throat ash particles if it's a big volcano very high in the atmosphere that reflects some of that light in fact this happened in nineteen
00:35:58ninety one when mount Pinatubo went off it cooled worldwide temperatures by my degree degree in half Fahrenheit four twelve to eighteen months well my company has come up with some very practical and cost effective ways of deliberately putting particles into the upper atmosphere and on paper it works
00:36:20out that you could now fight all of the warming that way these geo engineering ideas are in many quarters quite poorly received people get extreme some people anyway get extremely angry and they say oh technology got us in this problem where using technology to get us out and
00:36:39that's where I come to think of saying well okay so are you sincere about worrying about global warming or using global warming as a stalking horse for your political agenda if you're sincere about the harm of global warming you say I don't want my environment screwed up I
00:36:57don't want millions of people to die so if you take that problem oriented view if we can stop that problem that's good right this is one characteristic of the wizard solution a large scale top down fix many profits meanwhile think about small scale bottom up Mary Robinson again
00:37:20well there's a lovely story of this woman that I was very impressed by she's not apologist Mrs tone she was a professor who moved from Vietnam to Australia and could have had a very good living in Sydney and came back to her country because she wanted to work
00:37:35with poor people in her region she introduced me to the regional officer should produce me to the elders she introduced me to the women etcetera they had broken down and the level at which women could be involved comfortably is that if we do this at the district level
00:37:54women would feel disempowered so we broke it down to eight families coming together and forming a cooperative and we now have you know a number of cooperatives who are in charge of a certain part of the forestry to maintain that forest and the regional office or at her
00:38:12persuasion had given them the rice to the fruits of the forest as they say the first fruits for med signal and actual fruits and then they said next year would be able to call some of the trees but we will plant new trees we will maintain the forest
00:38:28and this for me was a wonderful example which I know is happening in indigenous communities all around the world they actually save forests and if we'd only listen to indigenous peoples we would save far more force we need to re plant and save rain forests and if we
00:38:45listen to those who really understands their neighborhoods and the forests will do it much more quickly and more effectively a lot of the solutions that you praise and suggest that we scale up are reliant to some degree at least on behavior change and people deciding to make a
00:39:01different kind of consumption decision or whatnot and as most of us know even if just from our own personal experience whether it's a diet or exercise or spending saving money and so on behavior change and self discipline can be very difficult and I'm curious whether you truly believe
00:39:18that relying on humans to quote do the right thing on a large scale will be successful enough to have the kind of effect in the climate round that you hope for but I certainly think it is important that we change our behavior to a significant extent and it
00:39:34is happening people are recycling more more young people are vegetarian or even vegan there is a real acknowledgement that we need to do this and actually women in the home and in the community are more likely to be leaders on changing behavior you know that's what we're good
00:39:49at them in the family you know we may not always be successful and I'm not the best myself I mean I'm I'm more vegetarian that I'm also a vegetarian yes bar to be a love some west of Ireland love that sort of thing net but the point really
00:40:04is that we need to understands the health and the economic benefits that come from a change in vision about where we want to see the world and that's the most important thing I am skeptical that we will solve it by just doing the right thing and and I
00:40:25am I mean that somewhat facetiously but to give an example there was little box was popular a few years ago called fifty simple things you can do to save the world well those are fifty simple things you can do to feel self righteous and none of them were
00:40:37gonna save the world and I think that approach and that attitude fundamentally mistakes what the problem is and it creates a situation where people can feel good about themselves %HESITATION I unplugged my iPhone charger while I was away today and yet no matter even if all of us
00:40:56did that it would not materially change what's going to happen global warming we have to make actually very painful cuts which our society isn't regular knowing we need to be careful about how we will move rapidly to having renewable energy in developing countries developing countries have become very
00:41:15ambitious to get renewable energy we're learning that there are human rights abuses occurring where clean energy is being put into a country in the wrong way and the wrong way tends to be mega projects that don't have any concern for land rights or water rights or indigenous peoples
00:41:36rights to consent locally an example that I'm aware of was a big wind farms in Kenya and it was on pastoral lands belonging to messiah pastoralists nobody told they had land rights but they had always brought their animals on this land and these big three hundred sixty five
00:41:53wind turbines were being built and they wouldn't have even benefitted from the energy from the clean energy the electricity so they took a case actually in court in Kenya and blocked the whole thing until the rights were being properly recognized well then this nuclear power so nuclear power
00:42:11is a carbon free energy source that absolutely works United States got scared of nuclear in the well starting nineteen seventies and through the nineteen nineties you know then vice president gore presided over the announcement of killing the last nuclear plant in I'd say it's because we were going
00:42:35to build safe coal plants now we realize inconveniently that global warming is a threat well I'm not an expert on the nuclear issue I have to admit that's the way I see is nuclear energy has its own problems and we saw that in Japan when the nuclear power
00:42:54plants were were flooded out what incredible problems and their lifelong problems for the Japanese there are problems at the end of the life cycle that make it very expensive if there are problems in building nuclear power stations that make it very expensive and meanwhile we have the much
00:43:09cheaper renewable energy coming on stream and that I understand much better so I'm not making a whole state but I think it's true that nuclear power does not produce greenhouse gas emissions owns that's important from cells and nuclear energy and and and has benefited from it but also
00:43:25has the problems now of aging nuclear power stations and the cost to the economy of getting rid of those I went back to Charles man author of the wizard and the profit about the nuclear power conundrum nuclear power is one of the things that a lot of environmentalists
00:43:50have come around to embrace as a as a and what's interesting is that I look to that as an example of how the standoff between the wizards in the profits can turn into inertia because if there'd been more collaboration and less grandstanding rather than inventing a technology that
00:44:10then kinda got old and got exported to Japan and France we probably would have kept building a better technology that by now would be wet weather universally accepted out who knows but it seems that the environmental yes %HESITATION protest against nuclear was so strong that it really stymied
00:44:28invention or innovation so that strikes me as one of the potentially worst paths of having wizards and profits or technologists and environmentalists not sharing a language sharing a middle ground I'm curious where you see this can go or should go will be present that we have as you
00:44:50say I think quite accurately is the worst of the many worlds right in which people are at loggerheads I suspect that one of the underlying issues is that much of these discussions the debates the arguments are couched in I think with the fosters call prudential terms so the
00:45:07people who don't like nuclear power say well we don't like it because it's unsafe we don't like it because of the waste we don't like it because the proliferation and and and so forth and they don't like it in those are all true those are but they're mainly
00:45:24pre tax they don't like it because they don't like the path that takes you down which they see as giant centralized facilities under state control and further and further away from democracy they don't like for the same reason they just don't like big corporations and so the argument
00:45:41fundamental arguments are really about values and we typically argue them on the basis of practical things as if that that is actually what is fueling the debate I I've never seen to my knowledge and nuclear power person saying what if we build compact nukes with smaller scale in
00:45:59shorter lifespans they could be used as a bridge fuel in the we were the people talk about natural gas and say okay we'll have this nuclear power plant for thirty years and it will buy us time so that the renewable stuff can kick in and why do you
00:46:11think that conversation isn't happening is that a failure of one camp or is that this construct that has been set up by people like William vote and maybe buy for long as well that we can escape there is a tendency for people to get really entrenched in their
00:46:27own walls our society is now so large that even Abby CC groups have become an industry of their own may have to protect their credibility and they'd start acting like the corporations that they decry and %HESITATION becomes more and more difficult for it not even just a middle
00:46:43ground but creativity to happen and I think some of that is just a consequence of scale let me ask one last question I want to know what you think is the profits view and the wizards view on let's say colonizing Mars right so I can see that appealing
00:47:05maybe not equally but quite robustly to each camp obviously requires a great deal technology but for the for the profits it's you know it's a chance to start a new with the planet we haven't screwed up yet it's interesting I should say that I am an ever have
00:47:21done since I was a child had been a space enthusiast so I think the kind of trade off there is the there do you know the science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy now it's a kind of a fascinating look at exactly colonizing Mars in in a
00:47:37in a certain way it's the it's all about the clash between the wizards in the in the profits because it's about how we should live on this new planet and %HESITATION yes we need all kinds of technological development what is the life that we're going to have here
00:47:51and also how are we gonna tear form it you know how we gonna make it more more habitable and I think there's rich room for disagreement argument for their you know you could put it in an inside a dome city which is certain in a certain way would
00:48:05be the most efficient way and %HESITATION or else you could really take the challenge of trying to transform the whole planet make appreciable if you were gonna bring one science adviser with you on that establishment of human colony there would it be William voter would be Norman Borlaug
00:48:20well I and thought about this what I'm thinking is which person would I like to be locked up with small vessel for several years and the poor log I think had a better sense of humor yet that seems an easy answer but let's forget about being locked up
00:48:35so lets him that personal confinement was not the one metric that you had to choose your scientist on button would you rather have the guy who figured out a new dimension of botany or a guy who understood that resources are finite and carrying capacity is a concept that
00:48:55should be applied to the environment and so on you know it's funny I think I would I would choose vote and here's the reason that is a hostile environment mistakes will kill you is I'm starting out I want somebody is hyper aware of potential mistakes in so I
00:49:13think I would probably have a chance of coming up with some of the innovations in someone like really want somebody to who point out how I might be on fast to killing myself if I could have board log on the way over transform to vote when I'm there
00:49:37Charles Mann's book remember it's called the wizard and the profit two remarkable scientists they're doing visions to shape tomorrow's world thanks to him and also to Mary Robinson anything you're bold coming up next time on economics for you when you have already upended the food world by rewriting
00:49:54just about every piece of conventional wisdom having to do with cooking what's left to do you know is that temptation you can't resist you open a restaurant what could possibly go wrong these problems are insurmountable like how that affects the award winning food writer and now restaurant tour
00:50:11Kenji Lopez all on how to open a restaurant step one don't it's next time plan for economic radio economics radios produced by stitcher end up your productions this episode was produced by Harry Hopkins our staff also includes Alison Craig low Greg results red ribbon Alvin Mel with Zach
00:50:35with Penske and any Meisenheim the music you hear throughout the episode was composed by the we scare you can find for economics radio where ever you get podcasts our entire archive is available on the stitcher at fort Freakonomics dot com we also find transcripts show notes etcetera if
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