By Richard Tren, TES Contributor
Oxfordshire, England. There was a time when Britain’s royalty stuck to their regal knitting, shaking hands, waving at crowds, and being somewhat important, but decidedly decorative, public figures. Increasingly the royals seem keen on inserting themselves into public policy. This must stop, as if adopted, the royal’s ideas will leave Britain and the world poorer, dirtier, and stupider.
Prince Charles has long felt the need to speak out on matters environmental. The Prince, who owns his own organic food company, has railed against genetically modified (GM) foods and has promoted organic farming. Over ten years ago he claimed that GM “would be guaranteed to cause the biggest disaster environmentally of all time.” (emphasis added.)
As one of the world’s richest and most privileged men, Prince Charles has never once wondered where his next meal would come from. Scientists developed GM foods not for princes and potentates, but to ensure that the world’s growing population has enough to eat. GM plants were developed to withstand pests and droughts. It is thanks to these new technologies, along with pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides, which the Prince abhors, that global hunger has been steadily decreasing. Poor farmers in Africa and Asia are now better able to feed themselves and their families. GM technology has not only meant farmers can produce more, they can also do so on less land, which means more land can be turned back to nature. And the supposed environmental harm has yet to materialize.
It seems as if we should disregard Prince Charles’s “guarantees” the same way he disregarded his marriage vows.
Prince Charles has also spoken out on climate change, recently claiming that international leaders have only 18 months to tackle the problem. Yet while the Prince would require ordinary people to consume less energy, he enjoys a massive carbon footprint, with several houses and gas guzzling cars including more than one Aston Martin. And even if the UK and other developed countries were to dramatically cut their CO2 emissions as he would like, with India and China continuing to increase their output, the move would be a futile gesture that would only harm UK’s economic growth. Of course, this would hurt the poor, not the royal family.
Prince Charles is therefore not only a hypocrite, but he’s simply wrong. Sadly, his younger son seems to be following in his footsteps.
Prince Harry, now known as the Duke of Sussex, recently revealed that he and his new bride, Meghan Markle, aka the Duchess of Sussex, will only have two children. Prince Harry conducted an interview with primatologist Jane Goodall for an edition of British Vogue that his wife guest edited. In that interview Prince Harry discussed his love of nature and went on to say when it came to children: “Two maximum! But I have always thought: this place is borrowed. And, surely being as intelligent as we all are, or as evolved as we all are supposed to be, we ought to be able to leave something better behind for the next generation.”
Prince Harry, like his father, is proving to be a hypocrite. He promotes policies that would have ordinary people consume less, yet he enjoys a lavish lifestyle that includes frequent overseas trips on private jets.
Yet while Prince Harry is as deeply misguided as his father is on the environment, it seems he tripped over a fundamental truth in his interview. The fact is that humanity is indeed intelligent and evolved enough to leave something better for the next generation.
A recently released research study by the Cato Institute in Washington, DC, provides a fascinating counter argument to Princes Charles and Harry, and demonstrates that we are far from running out of resources. The Simon Abundance Index, developed by Cato scholar Marian Tupy and economist Gale Pooley, is named after the economist, and noted optimist, Julian L. Simon.
Simon famously took issue with doomsayer Paul Ehrlich and bet him that after a ten-year period the world’s resources, as measured by a basket of metals, would be more plentiful, not less. Simon won because he correctly maintained that people are the “ultimate resource” and their ingenuity would make resources more plentiful. Although Ehrlich lost and has been proven to be wrong time and again, he has not stopped claiming the world is about to end.
Tupy and Pooley take Simon’s work further, developing an index for 50 foundational commodities covering energy, food, materials, and metals. The Index measures these commodities in terms of human labor, as measured by the global average hourly income. With this time-price of labor the analysis finds that, between 1980 and 2017, commodity prices fell by almost 65 percent. The Index also finds that the time-price of commodities decreased by 0.934 percent for every 1 percent increase in population. Overall Tupy and Pooley find that the world’s resources became almost 380 percent more abundant between 1980 and 2017.
Though it is counterintuitive, the fact remains that with an increased global population, humans have been able to make resources more plentiful. While the daily news is filled with stories of environmental harm, the fact is that the state of our environment is actually improving. Of course, there are still serious environmental problems, such as plastics in our oceans and pollution in our rivers, however these are almost all found in developing countries and as consequences of poverty, a lack of property rights, or poor regulation.
If Prince Harry actually cares about the environment and humanity, he should relax and change his two-child policy. And even if his own children don’t go on to become the scientists, engineers, or entrepreneurs who will ensure our world is more abundant, someone else’s children are sure to.
So, cheer up Harry, focus on smiling and waving at crowds, and enjoy your privileged lifestyle.
Richard Tren lives and works in Washington, DC.