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Different Views Of Growth

August 6, 2012 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 90, Issue 32

Does Rudy Baum realize how hypocritical it is for him to jet around the country and the world while telling people that they should forgo economic growth (C&EN, June 18, page 5)? Baum may have a smaller carbon footprint than Al Gore, but anyone who takes his vacations scuba diving in the Caribbean certainly is in the top 1% of people on the planet. While he has the right to pursue his own happiness, he should not be using the pages of this magazine to deny the other 99% of the planet their pursuit of happiness.

Thomas Malthus first expounded a theory on the limits of growth 200 years ago. He has been followed by many others, and the one verifiable observable is that they have always been wrong. If C&EN is science based, we should recognize that experimental fact.

By Jeffrey L. Hylden
Kennewick, Wash.

I read with some dismay Baum’s editorial “Prospects for Rio+20.”

Advocating a transition to a no- or low-growth economic model is to consign literally billions of people to a life of perpetual abject poverty—that is, unless mandatory population controls are also somehow imposed. Economic growth has been the mechanism that has lifted standards of living for hundreds of millions of people to unimagined heights during the 20th century.

One needs to have faith in the power of science and innovation, along with economic drivers, to develop alternatives for nonrecoverable/nonrecyclable consumables as supplies of these diminish. The old adage “grow or die” is still sage advice for companies, for economies, and for countries, at least as long as populations continue to grow and life expectancies continue to increase.

I don’t subscribe to the subverted notion of “grow and die,” which seems to be the notion posited by Roger Scruton that Baum termed a “glimmer of hope.” I view such thinking as a capitulation to pessimism and a surrender to risk-aversity. These traits are not at all in keeping with the hallmark traits of the chemical industry and the American Chemical Society.

By Ashby Rice
West Chester, Pa.



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