Romantic notions about the environment and technology are harmful, for their implementation can lower quality of life and worsen the problems implementation was meant to solve.
In recent years, the ideas espoused by some environmental and conservation groups have had adverse effects on agriculture, food supplies, and human health in developing countries. The difficulties these organizations create originate in their antiscience, antitechnology worldview. They deluge us with figures on soil loss, pesticide-related deaths, and alleged failed attempts at using pesticides to reduce infestation — but their figures are too often unverifiable.
In the 1970s, “small-is-beautiful,” “back-to-nature” types told us that we could sustain resources only if they were “renewable.” Two decades later, the “nonrenewable” resources we allegedly were exhausting are generally abundant and often available at historically low real prices — while the “renewable” biological resources, such as rain forests, are in danger.
Organic agriculture does not pass the first test of sustainability: It cannot sustain the existing population of the world. Actions that undercut agronomy — the science of field-crop production — are detriments to the poor and to the environment. Such actions lead to the bringing of marginal lands into cultivation.
The sustainability of agricultural techniques is an important, valid concern, but such concerns do not legitimize technological and sociocultural regression.