Resolve to Expand, Use, and Produce

The following article by Linn and Ari Armstrong originally was published January 7 by Grand Junction Free Press.

The number of people living on our planet has nearly quadrupled in the past century, expanding from 1.8 billion in 1910 to 6.9 billion now, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the United Nations.

For many environmentalists, all these people provoke woe and despair. People keep growing crops, building structures, having babies, and — horror of horrors — using energy from sources like coal and oil. Various environmentalists pray for some plague or catastrophe to wipe out much of the human race. They decry the alleged environmental harm of having children. In short, they hate people.

We happen to like people, and we think the more the merrier. Given continued technological advances possible with free markets and political liberty, our planet can comfortably support many times the current human population.

True, where violence and political corruption reign, as in much of Africa, often people cannot produce enough to support themselves. But this is not fundamentally a problem with the number of people; it is a problem of bad politics, cultural decay, and the ubiquitous violation of individual rights.

Environmentalists preach, “Reduce, reuse, and recycle.” The people-haters want fewer people to use less energy and fewer natural resources. Those who love life and cherish people reject such environmentalist pablum and instead embrace the motto, “Expand, use, and produce.”

Our goal should not be to reduce the amount of energy we use, but to radically expand it. The point is not to waste energy, but to use more of it as efficiently as possible to meet human needs.

Energy enables us to control the temperature, humidity, and other elements of our immediate environment in the structures we build. Energy lets us light our homes and cities and travel around the world, whether for health or vacation. Energy empowers us to produce the vehicles, buildings, computers, and other things we need to live well.

We look forward to the day when technological innovations allow the average American to use many times the amount of energy as today. We also gleefully anticipate people in other parts of the world catching up with U.S. energy use. To achieve such advances, people need economic liberty and political systems that protect individual rights. Only freedom enables people to use their minds to the fullest to produce the wealth we need to thrive.

When it makes economic sense, we should indeed reuse and recycle things. But we should not squander what Julian Simon called the “Ultimate Resource” — the human mind and our time spent using it. The major goal is to produce things. Recycling is valuable only insofar as it improves human life, as indicated by price signals showing that the rewards of recycling merit the time spent doing it.

We hope that, in another century, many more people live on the Earth, and even more live places other than our home planet. People should colonize the moon, space stations, and asteroids. How glorious will be that day when the human population of Mars reaches a billion.

Thankfully, some people are working toward that end. Various private space companies have launched crafts into space for commercial purposes. Here in Colorado, one space scientist has coauthored a novel about homesteading Mars. Thomas James, a cofounder of People’s Press Collective (to which Ari contributes), helped pen “In the Shadow of Ares.”

James’s novel is about the first family to homestead Mars. At age fourteen, Amber Jacobsen, the first person born on Mars, moves with her parents to a settlement that operates mines and builds greenhouse domes. James discussed the novel in a recent video interview; see for his complete comments.

James hopes the novel will inspire young readers. He said, “We did aim it toward kids, to get some of these ideas in front of kids that they’re not seeing from other sources.”

James worries that the fantasy so popular today “is not driving kids into math and science careers. It’s not getting them to think about things rationally and logically the way you would with science.”

Beyond the science, what sorts of ideas does James explore? “Capitalism is good, honesty is good, reason, integrity, they’re all good things, and if you follow these good principles,” you’ll ultimately achieve good ends.

“Along the way we throw in lessons about economics,” James adds, noting that one problem of the novel is “how you would set up an economy on a blank-slate planet.”

The novel embraces controversy, as any visionary work must. The Mars settlers depend on nuclear energy as well as genetically modified organisms for their basic needs.

James predicts: “We’re starting to see the beginnings of what we describe in the book, as the commercial development of space. And once that takes off, it could be sooner than we think.”

Space settlement is the next step in the human effort to expand, use, and produce, in order to thrive.