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1972 The Doomsday Syndrome
John Maddox



1977 The Next 200 Years
Herman Kahn et al, US Hudson Institute


Book cover-Maddox

John Maddox was editor of Nature, a leading science journal.

Maddox argued that there was no forthcoming crisis. He argued that environmental and associated problems could be and were being fixed through legislation and scientific and technological innovation.

"Tiny though the earth may appear from the moon, it is in reality an enormous object. The atmosphere of the earth alone weighs more than 5,000 million million tons, more than a million tons of air for each human being now alive. The water on the surface of the earth weights more than 300 times as much - in other words, each living person's share of the water would just about fill a cube half a mile in each direction... It is not entirely out of the question that human intervention could at some stage bring changes, but for the time being the vast scale on which the earth is built should be a great comfort. In other words, the analogy of space-ship earth is probably not yet applicable to the real world. Human activity, spectacular though it may be, is still dwarfed by the human environment."

Source:John Maddox, The Doomsday Syndrome, Macmillan, London, 1972.

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Herman Kahn and the Hudson Institute

Another well-known refutation came from Herman Kahn and the US Hudson Insitute who put forward a more optimistic scenario. They argued that in 200 years time people would be numerous, rich and in control of the forces of nature.

"In our view, the application of a modicum of intelligence and good management in dealing iwth current problems can enable economic growth to continue for a considerable period of time, to the benefit, rather than to the detriment, of mankind. We argue that without such growth the disparities among nations so regretted today would probably never be overcome, that 'no growth' would consign the poor to indefinite poverty and increase the present tensions between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'. Nevertheless, we do not expect economic growth to continue indefinitely instead, its recent exponential rate will probably slow gradually to a low or zero rate."

Source: Herman Kahn et al, The Next 200 Years: A Scenario for America and the World, Associated Business Programmes, London, 1977.

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© 2001 Sharon Beder