Category Archives: Technology

When Did We Stop Worrying About Population Growth?

In the environmental debates of the 1970s, one common name hurled at environmentalists was to call them “neo-Malthusians.”   This dismissive insult was meant to imply that the concern for environmental issues was nothing more than the contemporary application of the failed analysis of Thomas Malthus (1766-1834).  Malthus was a classical economist in the tradition of […]

What It Means When Humans Impoverish Nature

In Henry Beston’s eloquent classic of nature writing, The Outermost House, he worried about the decline in birds he was seeing on the Great Beach of Cape Cod.  Even in the 1920s when he spent his year on the Beach, humans were adversely impacting birds and other parts of nature.  Beston identified a “new” danger:   […]

Call Me a Luddite

Back in January I wondered out loud, Was the Internet a Good Idea?  To my way of thinking the information technology (IT) revolution of the past 25 years has been a mixed blessing.  It both created amazing tools for doing everyday tasks and introduced whole new means of mindless addiction and criminal opportunities. This IT […]

The Most Important Economist You Probably Have Never Heard About

Economists become famous by winning the Nobel Prize (technically the Swedish National Bank’s Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel) or becoming public intellectuals like John Kenneth Galbraith or Paul Krugman.  But economists do not have to be famous to be important.  Significant contributions come in many guises. The most important economist you […]

Be Happy You Didn’t Live in 1870

Robert Gordon’s 2016 book The Rise and Fall of American Growth is a comprehensive history of “the U.S. standard of living since the civil war.”  Gordon, a Northwestern University economist, details changes in consumption of food, clothing, shelter, and transport during a period when Americans experienced unprecedented improvement in quality of life.  From brutally difficult, […]

Was the Internet a Good Idea?

I remember clearly my first inkling of something new called the world wide web.  I had recently started using email and two colleagues brought me a U.S. Department of Agriculture publication describing a new information system.   One would be able to use a computer and software that would “crawl” about looking for information stored on […]

I wanted to throw the phones into the ocean.

Thanksgiving morning we took our traditional hike in Acadia.  This year it was more of a walk – the Ocean Path from Sand Beach to Otter Cliffs to Otter Cove and back again.  It was a beautiful morning, bright sun shining and an ocean full of Common Eider Ducks and Grebes.  Thanksgivings were offered for […]

“Renewable” Energy – Powerful Words Make Us Do Stupid Things

The term “renewable” is now magical when applied to energy policy.  We understand intuitively that fossil fuels are fixed, not renewable.  Even if they are abundant now, every bit of coal, oil, or natural gas we use means there is less available, and their use causes a host of environmental and national security problems.  If […]