"Doomslaying was a thankless task, but it had to be done, like taking out the garbage: it had to be carted to the dump today even if there'd be another big pile of it tomorrow," writes Ed Regis in his below article at Wired on Julian Simon.
... in 1980 he emerged from the cocoon. He'd gone into it as a humble professor of marketing and a passive spectator of global death sentence forecasts. But now, suddenly, he broke out into the light of day, he sprang forth onto the world stage, he started swinging his diamond-tipped sword - thwick-thwack! - as ... The Doomslayer!
The rebirth occurred in the pages of Science, in an article titled "Resources, Population, Environment: An Oversupply of False Bad News." It led with a summary that became a manifesto:False bad news about population growth, natural resources, and the environment is published widely in the face of contrary evidence. For example, the world supply of arable land has actually been increasing, the scarcity of natural resources including food and energy has been decreasing, and basic measures of U.S. environmental quality show positive trends. The aggregate data show no long-run negative effect of population growth upon standard of living. Models that embody forces omitted in the past, especially the influence of population size upon productivity increase, suggest a long-run positive effect of additional people.
Written in the form of Statement followed by Fact, every reigning doomsday dragon was neatly slashed in half, the severed beasts left flapping around on the ground like fish.
Statement: The food situation in less-developed countries is worsening.
Fact: Per capita food production has been increasing at roughly 1 percent yearly - 25 percent during the last quarter century.
Statement: Urban sprawl is paving over the United States, including much "prime agricultural land" and recreational areas.
Fact: All the land used for urban areas plus roadways totals less than 3 percent of the United States.... Each year 1.25 million acres are converted to efficient cropland by draining swamps and irrigating deserts.... A million acres yearly goes into additional wilderness recreation areas and wildlife refuges, and another 300,000 acres goes for reservoirs and flood control.
So on and so forth, fact piled upon fact, paragraph after paragraph, all of it buttressed by tables, charts, graphs, and diagrams, plus 42 footnotes, many of them containing additional data.
Letters to the editor poured into Science in an unseemly rush. A few of them expressed partial agreement, but the majority were heavily critical. Many of them repeated statutory items of The Litany - "human beings, like any other species, have the biological capacity to overrun the carrying capacity of their habitat" - and there were even some feeble attempts at humor: in extrapolating from past trends, said one writer, Simon is like "the person who leaped from a very tall building and on being asked how things were going as he passed the 20th floor replied, 'Fine, so far.'" (Simon's response: "I think the better story is about somebody who has a rope lifeline and falls off the 15th floor. Somewhere about 30 feet above the ground, she lets go of the rope. You ask her, 'Why did you let go of the rope?' And she answers, 'It was going to break anyway.' That's how many activists would like us to behave.")
As for the current situation in Japan, see Sophie Knight's doomslaying report from Tokyo: A Long Way from Chernobyl