This correspondence is regarding "Learn a lesson from the Dark Ages" by David Frum, which aired on Thursday, November 15, 2007.
The argument offered by Mr. Frum is called the "environment Kuznets hypothesis," which is an application of the classic Kuznets hypothesis to conservation. The "environmental Kuznets curve" is a "U"-shaped curve on a plane with conservation on the vertical axis and economic growth on the horizontal axis. That is, with economic growth, conservation decreases until some critical point and then increases.
It's interesting that Mr. Frum uses the Kuznets hypothesis to argue that our salvation comes from focussing on globalization. In fact, the Kuznets hypothesis only matches observational data when looking locally. In developed countries, we do see that economic growth leads to cleaner air and water and increased conservation; rich people embrace their local nature. Unfortunately, the conservation of developed countries comes at the cost of the destruction of the rest of the world. Global energy use and human population growth is still on the rise and global conservation is still falling. Additionally, every species we drive to extinction is lost permanently, so it's hard to imagine that the global conservation-growth curve can ever slope upward.
I worry that Mr. Frum's optimism is not simply outdated but is dangerous. I encourage him to consider taking a more conservative approach to the environment.
In retrospect, I could have said "which erred on ..." instead of "which aired on ...," but I would never want to be accused of sounding snarky...