“Some form of ecocatastrophe, if not thermonuclear war, seems almost certain to overtake us before the end of the [twentieth] century.”
Doom and gloom—and falsity—are hallmarks of the long career of John P. Holdren, neo-Malthusian and President Obama’s initial and still science advisor. Hallowe’en Holdren has been quiet about the outlandish in recent years–he does not want to embarrass his boss–but his many quotations beginning in the 1970s, never disowned, remain for the record.
Today is a good time to refresh our memories of the man who just might be the scariest presidential advisor in U.S. history!
Read—but don’t be frightened. The sky-is-falling gloom of Holdren, his mentor Paul Ehrlich, and others is in intellectual and empirical trouble. From Julian Simon to Bjorn Lomborg to Indur Goklany to Matt Ridley to Marlo Lewis to Alex Epstein, the technological optimists have the upper hand in a debate that continues to rage.
After all, who could have predicted the mineral resource boom with energy that has the other side now saying ‘leave it in the ground’? Who could have predicted how little global warming has occurred since the late 1990s (and wait until 2017 before declaring ‘the pause‘ over. And the incredible story of declining air pollution with increasing fossil-fuel usage continues.
And, despite the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident, the increasing safety of the oil industry?
Increasing supply. Decreasing pollution. Global lukewarming. Increasing safety. Decreasing ‘energy insecurity’…. Hallowe’en not with fossil fuels!
Billion Deaths Possible!
Economic Decline Coming!
“Today the frontiers are gone, and the evidence is mounting that technology cannot hold the law of diminishing returns at bay much longer. Resources being stressed today are often being stressed globally; they will not be replenished from outside the ‘system’.”
Economic Decline Required!
“Only one rational path is open to us—simultaneous de-development of the [overdeveloped countries] and semi-development of the underdeveloped countries (UDC’s), in order to approach a decent and ecologically sustainable standard of living for all in between. By de-development we mean lower per-capita energy consumption, fewer gadgets, and the abolition of planned obsolescence.”
“We are not, of course, optimistic about our chances of success. Some form of ecocatastrophe, if not thermonuclear war, seems almost certain to overtake us before the end of the century. (The inability to forecast exactly which one – whether plague, famine, the poisoning of the oceans, drastic climatic change, or some disaster entirely unforeseen – is hardly grounds for complacency.)”
We find ourselves firmly in the neo-Malthusian camp. We hold this view not because we believe the world to be running out of materials in an absolute sense, but rather because the barriers to continued material growth, in the form of problems of economics, logistics, management, and environmental impact, are so formidable.”
Occupy Wall Street!
“[Our] “gloomy prognosis” [requires] organized evasive action: population control, limitation of material consumption, redistribution of wealth, transitions to technologies that are environmentally and socially less disruptive than today’s, and movement toward some kind of world government”
Do I Have to Prove It?
“Now, this problem puts those of us who tend to view with alarm in a somewhat curious position. We’re calling upon society to make major changes, but we cannot prove exactly what will happen and exactly when, in the absence of those kinds of changes.” 
“We have been warned by our more cautious colleagues that those who discuss threats of sociological and ecological disaster run the risk of being ‘discredited’ if those threats fail to materialize on schedule.”
In-depth Holdren analysis can be found in these posts:
John Holdren in Retrospect (Part VIII on Obama’s New Science Advisor) (February 2, 2009)
John Holdren Told ‘Not to Make News’ at Confirmation Hearing (February 12, 2010)
Halloween Hangover: Ehrlich, Holdren, Hansen Unretracted (November 1, 2010)
An earlier version of this post was published on October 31, 2013.
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