Robert Bryce – Senior Manhattan Institute Fellow – gave a vibrant talk yesterday in New York City at a gathering called to launch his latest book “Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper,” which he describes as a “rebuke to the catastrophists.”
The premise is that technology and innovation are helping people live healthier, longer, more fulfilled lives than at any other point in history. Bryce started his talk with statistics about the computing power of smart phones – which surpass that used in early moon missions – nanotechnology, aviation advancements and state-of-the-art internal combustion engine design. Despite all the bad news carried by mainstream media concerning disease, famine and hardship, people are better off today than ever before, says Bryce.
“The catastrophists want degrowth,” Bryce said, as he rattled off quotes from famous activists whose message is that a return to a pastoral existence is the way forward. Societies around the world powered their needs by burning wood for centuries, but most people would probably be against returning to that system today. He describes this view as “slouching toward dystopia.”
Climate activist Bill McKibben is famous for saying “do the math” when it comes to climate change and fossil fuel consumption. Bruce riffs on this theme in the book, turning the phrase around to show that renewable energy alone is not sufficient to meet the world’s incremental energy consumption requirements – let alone existing consumption levels.
“We’re not going to save climate change with solar panels on Walmart roofs in California,” Bryce said.
He is not anti-renewable energy, but does not believe wind and solar alone can power the global economic growth engine and Bryce uses loads of statistics to back up his view. “We need [energy] density, density is green. A smaller environmental footprint is the ideal,” he said.
Responding to a question about nuclear power, Bryce joked that “if you are anti-carbon and anti-nuclear, then you are pro darkness.” Overall, his message is positive and certainly entertaining, so stay tuned for a book review once we’ve had a chance to read it.