Why Elephants Love Plastic and Whales Love Oil

In an online program of The LaRouche Organization on July 9, Jason Ross of the Schiller Institute science team took up the issue of why the denunciations of human progress as pol luting are not only scientifically wrong, but intentional frauds meant to change the way society develops – or rather, doesn’t develop. Here is an abridged version of one segment of his remarks.

People say plastic is bad for the environment. Well, plastic is actually very good. If you ask elephants, plastic is wonderful. In the 1800s, tens of thousands of elephants were killed every year to send tusks for ivory to British silverware manufacturing plants. In Europe and the United States together, there were 2 million pounds of ivory consumed every year -the tusks of 160,000 elephants late in the 19th century.

What happened? A shortage of elephants? Partly. But the big thing was plastic. There’s no need to kill an elephant to take its tusks if you can just use plastic to make pool balls, or knife handles. Plastics saved the elephants.

Plastics also saved the tortoises. No more tortoise shells for combs, glasses frames, this sort of thing. Millions of tortoises were killed to make things that now you can make from plastics.

As far as the ban on straws and the war on plastic bags, less than 1% of the plastic waste in the oceans is plastic bags. Using anything besides plastic bags uses more resources. A lot of that plastic that people worry about being in the ocean, came because we shipped plastics to underdeveloped, poorer countries, where maybe they’d just wind up in the ocean. So, the idea that we’re going to save the planet by banning straws is ridiculous.

The way to keep oceans clean is development. What kind of trash service exists in poor nations? What kind of waste disposal overall? Development is the way that you can have a nice environment. There’s no contradiction; in fact, it’s entirely the opposite.

Let’s talk about petroleum and the use of land. When the United States moved from using mules and horses, draft animals, to help on the farms, and used tractors and combines and harvesters instead, we freed up a lot of land that was just growing food for animals. The size of that land was equal in size to California! That’s how much land we no longer had to dedicate to producing essentially fuel to power a horse. Instead, you use petroleum to power a tractor. Far more efficient, far higher energy density.

Another example: whales. Greenpeace made a big show in 1975 of opposing whaling, being big heroes going after whaling ships. In the middle of the 1800s, we produced 600,000 barrels of whale oil annually. People loved whale oil: It burned clean, you could make candles out of it, you could burn it directly. But by 1900, whaling was down by 90%. Why? Because of petroleum. It is far more efficient to get oil out of the ground, than to hunt down whales, and then melt down their blubber to make oil. Whaling peaked in 1962, when 75,000 whales were killed every year for oil, baleen, ambergris. But it was already on its way out by the time Greenpeace made a big stink. They didn’t stop it: What stopped it was the fact that there’s no need to hunt down whales for things you could manufacture even better!

Look at fishing, overall for mass food production. Today, fish farming produces half of the fish consumed on the planet. In fact, it’s kind of weird that we go out and hunt fish in the oceans: We don’t hunt chickens, or cows, we raise them. We don’t hunt lettuce, or go scavenging for lettuce. We grow it on a farm.

So, we have a transformation, from looking for resources out there in nature to producing them ourselves. That’s why limits to resources is really an imaginary idea. We’re able to produce things in new ways.

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