Something unanticipated and quite remarkable happened in England in the second half of the 20th century: People began getting married later in life and having fewer children. The population growth rate in Western Europe is now close to zero; any increase in population comes from immigration. We in the US are approaching the same situation.
Social scientists who study population growth believe the remarkably low birthrate is most closely correlated with increased education level—especially that of women. We are not left with the Dismal or the Utterly Dismal Theorem, but with the Moderately Cheerful Form: Something other than misery and starvation has been found that will keep a prosperous population in check.
Paul Weisz concludes that an urgent commitment to solar and nuclear energy technology is needed. I certainly agree, not because fossil fuels will run out eventually, but because the level of air pollution is now simply unacceptable. In the 1980s, the US closed down a nuclear power plant on Long Island, New York. It cost billions to build and was never allowed to generate power. When a Long Island politician was asked about this, he replied, “If we save one life, it is worth the money.” A year later, an explosion at a natural gas power plant in Manhattan killed two people, and the Upper East Side was without power for 10 hours. The headlines, of course, decried the power outage, not the loss of life.
If people are told that they must either allow construction of a nuclear power plant or turn off their air conditioners, the political movement to build nuclear power plants will be swift and vast. Until then, we on Long Island will generate power with fossil fuels.