In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

‘Trick Mirror’

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Dealing in futuresW.R. Mead
Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close
The 2024 Report: A Concise History of the Future 1974-2024 
by Norman Macrae.
Sidgwick, 198 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 283 99113 5
Show More
The Resourceful Earth: A Response to ‘Global 2000’ 
edited by Julian Simon and Herman Kahn.
Blackwell, 585 pp., £14.95, September 1984, 0 631 13467 0
Show More
Show More

For some years, 2000 has been rivalling 1984 as a golden number in the calendar of futurologists. It has now taken over. And while Europeans have been casting economic horoscopes for their continent at the dawn of the next millennium, nothing is good enough for their American cousins but a forecast for the great globe itself – hence Global 2000: Report to the President, the establishment of the Global Tomorrow Commission, and Global Future: Time to Act, with its list of a hundred recommendations. Norman Macrae’s cheerful 2024 fantasy contrives to disregard Global 2000; The Resourceful Earth offers an alternative and positive point of view.

The 2024 Report is a concise history of the next forty years conceived by a scientist, an economist and a computerman. The Resourceful Earth, a compendium of 20 contributions, cannot fail to give new life and new directions to the controversy that surrounds the Report to the President. Members of a team of 23 scientists criticise the Report for presenting ‘unreasonable and shockingly gloomy projections’ and ‘rash predictions of imminent disaster’, for employing models which deceive, for reaching unsubstantiated conclusions, for employing emotionally-charged, even hysterical language, for exploiting power to frighten the public and for generally crying havoc. Even when, in the case of the world’s water resources, the authors of the Report find ‘that no reasonable or useful forecasts’ can be made, they are charged with disregarding their own analysis and offering unnecessarily alarmist conclusions. Ultimately, it is the bureaucratic compilers of the Report against whom these reproaches are made. To a man, Julian Simon’s independent team of scientists challenge them for the assurance with which they create their mirage of certain doom and offer their own reassuring, though by no means complacent assessments of the world environmental situation.

Besides using additional factual information, the authors of The Resourceful Earth base their claims upon different methodologies from those of the Report. Not least, they place more emphasis upon trend analysis. They begin by stressing the extremely hazardous character of population forecasting and refute the Report’s demographic projections. Among other telling illustrations employed is a graph which juxtaposes the principal forecasts for the development of the United States’s population made between 1931 and 1943. All seven are wide of the mark. Even assuming significant population increase, the men of the resourceful earth (as we may call them) see no reason why there should be a diminution in the primary per capita supplies of food. In order to produce the necessary increase in calories for a higher world living standard, there is clearly a need for greater concentration of productive effort – effort which should be shifted away from formulating equitable national policies to grappling with problem areas. In addition to the increasing productive capacity of temperate latitudes, there is an abundance of unused agricultural land between the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. In such areas and many others, to employ the words of Norman Macrae, ‘Mother Nature has never really had the advice that she should have had from a sensible time-and-motion analyst.’ Given the will – and effectively employed energy – famine can be translated into glut.

The quality of life depends no less upon energy supplies than upon food, for energy brings both wealth and health. Conservation of energy, it is argued, is likely to reduce both, especially for the developing world. In a closely reasoned contribution, S.F. Singer forecasts that, largely as a result of fuel substitutes, the demand for oil by the OECD countries will have fallen by half in 2000 AD. The threat to the exhaustion of reserves will have been correspondingly reduced. Nor does he consider oil availability as the crucial factor for economic growth. In any case, as William Brown asserts in a complementary chapter, ‘very little in the history of energy allows confidence to be placed in statements about long-term future developments’ and as yet unrecognised unconventional sources of energy may well emerge. Meanwhile, the case for nuclear power is put strongly, with the emphasis upon an analysis of the risks involved. Employing the assessment of risk in terms of individual life expectancy devised by the anti-nuclear union of concerned scientists, the figure is put at a maximum of 1.5 days. Actuarially, it amounts to a risk which compares with 1600 days for a person who smokes a packet of cigarettes a day, with 1000 days for a man who works as a miner or with 900 days for a person who is overweight by 30 pounds. The statistics can be seen as both challenging and comforting, though the time-span over which they have been collected is short. The real problems to be resolved are the ‘social issues for which nuclear power is merely the symbol’. Further support for the pro-nuclear lobby comes from Bernard Cohen, who considers that increasing measures to prevent heat loss in the home are more dangerous to health than the provision of energy from nuclear power plants. Of course, forty years on in the Utopian world of The 2024 Report, nuclear energy will have come into its own and the nuclear nightmare will have been dreamed away.

The resourceful earth men are much more optimistic about other renewable resources than the authors of Global 2000. They maintain that the problems are regional and national rather than world-wide. John Wise considers that fish resources are at least keeping pace with world population increase and that, in spite of pollution, aquaculture and fish farming in general do not seem to be suffering in any major way. It is admitted that nationally and regionally deforestation is a severe problem, but in the world aggregate situation there is no primary cause for alarm. Julian Simon himself is less perturbed than the President’s advisers about what N. Myers calls ‘the sinking ark’, arguing that throughout time there have always been gains and losses in genetic diversity – some for the better, some for the worse. In any case, the rate of extinction of species, save for a very few, is largely guesswork and calls for much more fundamental research.

All of these environmental issues are sensitive to climatic circumstance over the presumed changing character of which hang many question-marks. H.E. Landsberg would wish bold type to be used for the Report’s statement that ‘it is not possible to produce generally agreed upon quantitative climatic projections.’ Publicity has been given to the more dramatic features of the Report. Among them is the presumed increase in concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, with the consequent ‘greenhouse effect’ on the earth’s climate, but the theory is presented without reference to the ‘cascade of uncertainty’ that surrounds it. The really important point is the need for fuller investigation of the ecological impact of climatic variability. Extreme and transitory variations within the generally understood climatic frame are difficult to anticipate.

On the score of health, Julian Simon’s team go further than the somewhat grudging admission by those of Global 2000 that a steady and widespread improvement may be anticipated by the 21st century. Nevertheless, because of significant exceptions to the general experience, predictions are beset with hazards. Nutrition and longevity provide illustrations. Iceland, which has one of the highest fat and sugar consumptions per capita of any country in the world, boasts the longest life expectancy of all. Sweden and the Netherlands, also with high fat and high sugar diets, enjoy an equally enviable health status. It would seem that a better understanding of the genetic factor in dietary tolerance is a critical feature for world nutritional forecasts.

At the same time as it challenges the processes of environmental forecasting employed in the Report to the President, The Resourceful Earth criticises the procedures of government. Its contributors are suspicious of proposals to increase spending programmes resulting from Global 2000, of the methods employed to mobilise public interest in favour of its recommendations, and of the funding of government agencies in which the management of environmental resources is centralised. They consider it more healthy and productive to disperse environmental research among a variety of institutions which are independent of central authority save for the provision of finance. Since they incline to the view that world simulation models are largely of the stuff that ‘quasi-learnedness’ is made, they are sceptical about computer modelling in high places. Furthermore, they dislike the process, as exemplified in the models of the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth, whereby models can become entrenched in government agencies and be subject to the manipulation of pressure groups. The resourceful earth men would doubtless support Norman Macrae’s antipathy to ‘neurotic over-government’, which he diagnoses as a primary cause of the world’s ills, including one of the mid-20th century’s ‘fastest growing human diseases ... something called a nervous breakdown’. Macrae’s scenario for today’s children, who will be the mature adults of 2024, is of a brave new world which has overcome most of the environmental problems that bedevil the authors of The Resourceful Earth and Global 2000. Following what he calls the ‘gunboat years’ of 1993-2005, during which the two super-powers work harmoniously together to put the rest of the world to rights, he foresees the 165 nation states slowly withering away. The process is brought about partly by the telecommunications-computer link-up, partly by an enlightened international institution called Centro-bank. Telecommuting is regarded as the third great revolution in transport following the railway and the automobile, because cost will no longer be related to distance. It gives to mankind a new freedom of personal movement and contact, at the same time revolutionising education. Centrobank, born of a telecommuter conference without top economists and on a downmarket television programme, provides the means for transforming the poorer parts of the world. It is an international agency with authority to print a new foreign exchange document which allows any applicant country below a certain income per head to permit its internal growth to proceed at the fastest possible non-inflationary rate. Naturally, any government declining to participate in the Centrobank scheme will be ‘booted out’ by its people. By comparison with Erewhon‘s musical banks, the noises emitted by Centrobank sound like the music of the spheres. The 2024 Report is full of equally ingenious ideas – all of them regarded by its authors as both technically and scientifically possible. Thus, genetic engineering provides new potentials in the realm of nature, and beyond a succession of destructive phases lies the constructive use of a new generation of drugs. New forms of brain-scanning help in the handling of the mad and the bad. Perhaps on the way to 2024 a new form of scientific exorcism may lay the ghost in Arthur Koestler’s machine.

The Resourceful Earth is written to enlighten: The 2024 Report to entertain. Yet both seek to identify paths to the wiser management of environmental resources – The 2024 Report going further and anticipating the equally problematical management of human dilemmas. Both look for brakes upon cost-disregarding governments with their built-in institutional restraints. On scientific and technological grounds, both are optimistic about the foreseeable future. It is actuarially possible that Norman Macrae will live through his flight of fancy and be able to out-fiction Science Fiction when the voices come through from outer space on 9 June 2024. But if one of Mother Shipton’s fatal years happens to intervene, he will not be the only one to be confounded by the fulfilment of her prophecy.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.