The World Wildlife Fund is calling on people around the world to show their “commitment to the planet” by sitting in the dark for one hour tomorrow night (March 25). But sitting idle for an hour won’t change a thing, while human action has already changed the world in marvelous ways.
That is why the staff at the Competitive Enterprise Institute asks you to join us and turn the lights on in celebration of human achievement. Indeed lighting the world is just one—although a major one—of many great technological accomplishments that have revolutionized the way we live. Mankind lives a longer and more enriched life than ever before thanks to human ingenuity.
The green desire to sit in the dark perpetuates a false narrative that demonizes free-market economies and the amenities they produce, suggesting that poor people suffer as the rich get richer. But nothing could be farther from the truth, and if we follow the greens’ prescriptions more people will remain or become poor.
The world’s poor need greater freedom and resulting economic growth to lift more people out of poverty and allow them to turn on the lights. History has proven this reality over and over again, yet many people choose to remain in the dark. They only way they can support their grim world view is by engaging in exercises of deceptive, rhetorical calisthenics.
Perfect examples are two recently released World Health Organization (WHO) reports claiming that millions of children suffer because of “environmental factors.” Based on these reports, the WHO issued a press release claiming that 1.7 million children die every year from “pollution,” and the implication is “industrial pollution” and free enterprise are to blame. Based on this regressive world view, the “answer” lies in “sustainable development”—i.e., government managed economies—including such things as government regulation of fossil fuels, pesticides and other economic activity.
But the “pollution” to which they refer includes untreated drinking water and heavy smoke related to rudimentary energy sources—challenges related to low-levels of economic development. Hence, the problem isn’t industrial activity; it’s the lack thereof.
For example, in developing nations, air quality—particularly indoors—is an enormous problem because many people still cook and heat their homes by burning biomass (animal dung, wood, coal, or other solid fuels) without proper ventilation, or even a chimney in many cases. It’s not surprising that respiratory illness is high among people living in these smoke-filled enclosures.
These populations desperately need economic development and access to modern cooking and heating systems that use fossil fuels. Yet the WHO Report titled Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children’s Health and the Environment, foolishly calls for a “shift from fossil fuels to sustainable and cleaner energy sources,” which will only contribute to continued human misery.
And despite what some may say, China’s abhorrent industrial pollution problem does not prove that industry and private enterprise is the problem. China’s situation is just another example showing how socialist economic arrangements are bad for the environment. Without true economic freedom, property rights, and adequate political representation, citizens have little power to prevent government-owned or subsidized manufacturing facilities from churning out pollution without much accountability. According to one report, most of China’s Fortune 500 corporations are government-owned.
Inheriting a Sustainable World: Atlas on Children’s Health and the Environment does include a list of some significant public health achievements. For example, they report that between 1990 and 2015, child mortality dropped 50 percent with 12.7 million fewer deaths among children under five; the number of underweight children declined 25 percent; substantially more people had gained access to clean drinking water; and 2.1 billion more people gained access to improved sanitation. Between 2000 and 2015, diarrheal-disease-caused deaths among children under 5 years old have also declined from 1.2 million to 526,000.
The authors don’t bother to discuss these trends or highlight them in the press release. Why is that? Perhaps because they don’t fit the anti-free-enterprise narrative.
The authors don’t want to admit that private enterprise and technological developments are increasingly lifting people out of poverty. Greater wealth means: cleaner energy and pollution control technologies; better sanitation; improved housing; better access to pesticides and other technologies that increase agricultural productivity and reduce populations of mosquitoes that transmit malaria and other deadly diseases; increased access to medicines; and so much more.
So this Saturday at 8:30 PM, turn on the lights! Take an enlightened view of the world and celebrate human achievements that lift people out of poverty and make life more enriching for us all.