Thus, for example, the presence of free oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere is an impossibility in the chemically determined geosphere but made possible by the laws of the biosphere, which can create oxygen (and vast amounts of sugars, cellulose, and proteins as resources for life) in defiance of chemical equilibrium through its invention of photosynthesis. And the existence of metallic aluminum on Earth, while impossible in either the geosphere or the biosphere, becomes possible in the technology-wielding noosphere.
These ideas have had numerous interpretations, ranging from Christian (Teilhard de Chardin) to Communist. My own take is humanistic, as I see these ideas as defining the development of expanding resources and ever greater degrees of freedom as a fundamental feature of nature. So I was glad to submit an abstract, and it was accepted.
So imagine my surprise when, at the opening ceremony (after an endless series of welcoming speeches by various dignitaries), the organizers started talking about the allegedly profound “limits to growth” ideas of the Club of Rome, and the need to reestablish the Club of Rome as the Club of Moscow to carry forward the global Malthusian cause. I attempted an intervention at the plenary session the second day, where I pointedly asked the lead conference organizer, Lomonosov MSU professor Alexander Rozanov, how he could honestly embrace the ideas of the Club of Rome, when all its predictions had been proven false. And did he really believe that the Club’s idea of zero economic growth would be good for Russia and the world? In reply, he dodged, ranting something about the Cold War and nuclear war that neither I nor some Russians sitting nearby could make head or tail of.
My talk was scheduled for a breakout session that afternoon, and in view of what was being promoted, I decided to shift gears from my planned Vernadskian discourse and instead do my best to skunk the picnic by really making the issues at hand clear. I presented data showing that throughout history, as the world’s population has gone up, the standard of living has gone up too — not down, as predicted by the Club of Rome and prior Malthusians. This is so because “resources” are actually human creations, resulting from technological innovation, and the more people there are, and the more prosperous and free they are, the more inventors there will be.
Before agriculture was invented, land was not a resource. Before oil drilling and nuclear fission were invented, petroleum and uranium were not resources. Right now, solar power and deuterium fusion are not resources, but within decades, they will be. The danger facing us comes not from lack of resources, but from people who insist that we have run out of resources. If you embrace their idea of a world where there is only so much to go around, then you are endorsing a program of genocide and a war of all against all.
As proof, I cited the words of Hitler, from the fall of 1941, when, to justify his order to exterminate the 3 million people of the city of Leningrad, he set forth precisely the Club of Rome’s theory of the Earth’s limited carrying capacity, saying that “the laws of existence require uninterrupted killing, so that the better may live.” And then, to twist the knife, I quoted the eerily soulful words of the poet (and radio heroine of the siege) Olga Berggolts, inscribed on the memorial to the 1 million Leningrad dead — “No one is forgotten, and nothing is forgotten” — and threw them in the organizers’ faces. These Malthusian ideas had to be defeated at a terrible cost, I said. They cannot be allowed to rise again.