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November 10th, 2009

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02:30 am - Economics & Also Rainforests: data, both surprising & unsurprising
First, economist Paul Krugman demonstrates that the much acclaimed benefits Ronald Reagan and his wacky economics actually resulted in an economy that has been growing more slowly. In a follow-up, he provides hard data:
Take the United States, which wasn’t damaged in the war. Take per capita real GDP. Give hostages by taking data from 1950 to 1980, which means including the 1980 recession, but stopping at 2007, so that the current slump isn’t included. Then here’s what you get:

Growth in per capita real GDP from 1950 to 1980: 2.2 percent per year
Growth in per capita real GDP from 1980 to 2007: 2.0 percent per year

Oh, and if we look at real median family income instead, we get:

Growth from 1950 to 1980: 2.3 percent per year
Growth from 1980 to 2007: 0.7 percent per year

Sorry: there’s no measure I can think of by which the U.S. economy has done better since 1980 than it did over an equivalent time span before 1980.
One again, we see how Reagan and the neocons have done their best to weaken the middle class, while making the rich richer, but also less rich than they would have been under a less vile and idiotic regime.

Now for the surprising news, the following NYT article was mentioned in Stewart Brand's fascinating new book Whole Earth Discipline. In the article we find
These new “secondary” forests are emerging in Latin America, Asia and other tropical regions at such a fast pace that the trend has set off a serious debate about whether saving primeval rain forest — an iconic environmental cause — may be less urgent than once thought. By one estimate, for every acre of rain forest cut down each year, more than 50 acres of new forest are growing in the tropics on land that was once farmed, logged or ravaged by natural disaster.
A bit later on we read
“Is this a real rain forest?” Dr. Wright asked, walking the land of a former American cacao plantation that was abandoned about 50 years ago, and pointing to fig trees and vast webs of community spiders and howler monkeys.

“A botanist can look at the trees here and know this is regrowth,” he said. “But the temperature and humidity are right. Look at the number of birds! It works. This is a suitable habitat.”
I'm ultimately rather unsurprised that given time and people not continuing to mess with it, the Earth heals itself quite well. I rather suspect that global warming would also slow down well faster than we expect - if (and this is a non-trivial if) we significantly reduce our CO2 output.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

(4 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:November 10th, 2009 11:45 am (UTC)
Interesting about the rainforest re-growth.
[User Picture]
Date:November 10th, 2009 07:03 pm (UTC)
Fascinating on both counts.
[User Picture]
Date:November 10th, 2009 11:17 pm (UTC)
Yay!!! I'm happy about the rainforest regrowth.

I'm also happy because your blog is the most sensible source of environmental news at my fingertips. Everything else is either alarmist or denialist.
[User Picture]
Date:November 11th, 2009 08:38 am (UTC)
Oh god damn Livejournal ate my comment.

I think rich people (top 1%) did much better under Reaganomics getting a bigger slice of a smaller pie than they would have done under a renewal of the post-war compact.

I agree that most people's imagining of the duration of global warming is worse than what we will actually get, although without the If coming true, what we will get will still be 400 years of slowly drowning all coastal cities and Bangladesh and Florida and eastern England, and the accelerated continuation of the current massive extinction event, with another ten thousands years or so before the climate gets back to the pre-modern CO2 levels. But people tend to think it will be even worse than that.

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