There are many things to be wary of in the modern world. Terrorism, Jeremy Corbyn, spiders. But as of recently, people have forgotten their phobias to make way for the signaling of a brand new fear. That of mass extinction. Facebook walls across the world have been plastered with tear jerking videos of cute Pandas and cuddly Chimpanzees, accompanied by captions heralding the mass exodus soon to come if humans don’t stop their destructive ways. This is all in the wake of a report released by the WWF which brazenly proclaimed that “The world is on track to lose two-thirds of wild animals by 2020”.
What is to be done to save our fellow residents of planet earth? Should we stop intensive farming, stop logging, return to the caves from whence we came and pick up the wooden cudgels and bronze tools that we abandoned long ago?
Of course not. The answer to such an issue is perhaps not obvious. We should carry on as before. Developing, trading and innovating. Because there has never been a better time to be alive on planet earth. Free markets and competition have enabled innovation that not only makes the 21st century a great time to be a human, but also to be an animal.
When the German Chemist Fritz Haber produced ammonia (fertilizer) from hydrogen and atmospheric Nitrogen, like many great innovators, he benefitted man and beast alike. This, combined with genetically modified high yield crops and sophisticated irrigation systems, has meant that less land was needed for farming, leading to less destruction of animal habitats.
When societies become developed, they not only stop having so many resource hungry children, but they begin caring about the preservation of animal species as well, and so make a concerted effort to help. And as study after study has shown, there is an extremely strong link between the economic freedom and development of a country. Further, 20th century inventions and innovations like synthetic leather and fur help all. When societies build houses from bricks instead of forests, they are doing not only man a service, but animals also. Progress for mankind is often progress for wildlife. The Dodo would never have died out had it existed today.
But don’t take my word for it. The President of the Adam Smith Institute Madsen Pirie has said in his paper “Britain and the World in 2050” that by 2050 there will be lab grown meats and new, more nutritious vegetables. Perhaps more dottily, he predicted the ability of humans to be able to resurrect extinct species, including the dinosaurs. And let’s be honest with one another, who cares about the Panda when we can have dinosaurs? Given his persistently impeccable track record in predicting the future, this is certainly not a prophecy to be scoffed at.
The problem with the prediction of the WWF is that in forecasting the loss of two thirds of wild animals, it assumes that human development will stay stagnant between now and 2020. But History tells otherwise. With free markets and free people to trade and make progress, animals and humans alike can thrive in a more advanced world.