Author(s): Peter H. Raven
Dear Members of Editorial Board, Washington Post:
I was stunned by the lack of correspondence between modern economic theory, and indeed reality, with the editorial you recently published,
and am not quite sure how to respond helpfully As you can see, world-class economist Sir Partha Dasgupta, who in 2020 completed a 601 page review of the economics of biodiversity for the U.K. Department of the Treasury, has calculated that if everyone throughout the world were to be afforded an annual income of about $20,000, a human population of perhaps 3.2 billion people would be able to live sustainably on our planet. Earlier estimates were even lower. The huge disparities between current GNI per capita at $70,480 in the U.S. and $3993 in Sub-Saharan Africa (Population Research Bureau 2022 World Population Data Sheet), played out against a background of greed at all levels from individual to national, seems to me to make it virtually impossible for us to live sustainably on this planet: when will Americans or Western Europeans be ready to give up large parts of their current standard of living to even things out globally? And as for the 8 individuals who control as much money as the 3.6 billion poorest among us, they certainly don’t seem to have any urge to level matters out either, unless I’m missing something.
To publish an opinion piece headed, in part, “That’s probably a good thing” is to give people license to consume as much as they want and to simply get on with their day-to-day activities, which is what most of us would like to do anyway. It certainly offers no hope of finding our way out of the catastrophe facing us, which is why I consider your editorial so unfortunate. Keep it here, get as much as possible of the world’s wealth here: can you possibly do better? I appreciate your paper in many ways, but this editorial is about as misleading as anything I’ve read anywhere on a topic that affects us all so profoundly. I very much hope that you will find a way to do better than to champion a “business as usual” scenario in a world where we are causing our life support systems to crash all around us.
Dr. Peter H. Raven
President Emeritus, Missouri Botanical GardenThe views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.