Apocalypse Not

The following paper by Johan Norberg* was presented at the IV. ECAEF/CEPROM Conference on ‘Towards a Viable Alternative: Markets and Entrepreneurship to Protect the Environment’, 10 December 2019. Initiated by the European Center for Austrian Economics Foundation based in the Principality of Liechtenstein, this academic conference series is dedicated to the eminent late French scholar Jacques Rueff. The co-operation with CEPROM (Le Centre d’Etudes Prospectives pour Monaco) was highly appreciated.

Apocalypse Not: Despite Fluster and Fearmongering, there is Progress

by Johan Norberg

Often our environmental debate takes place in a historical vacuum. For obvious reasons we are obsessed with the problems at hand, because those are the ones that are most urgent right now. But since we always face several difficult problems that we do not yet have solutions to, we tend to exaggerate present problems and underestimate the problems of the past, that we solved, and subsequently forgot. This blinds us to humanity’s real impact on nature.

This paper has the ambition to set the record straight. To compare the fears of the 1960s and 1970s with the actual environmental record in ensuing decades. What we then find is that we have been much better at protecting both human survival and environmental health than anyone could have expected. By examining the curious incident of the environmental collapse that never took place, I hope that we can inform present choices and priorities.

Predictions of apocalypse

In the 1960s and 1970s, the western world experienced an environmental awakening. Richer and better educated citizens with better knowledge of serious environmental problems started to question the post-war growth model that found its expression when one US mayor said that “If you want this town to grow, it has got to stink”, 1 and a leading Swedish Social Democrat to say that we should “sacrifice the West Coast” – a particularly lovely area blessed with magnificent nature (where I happen to have a summer home) – for industrial exploitation. Why not? There was plenty of coast around the Mediterranean that we could travel to instead …

Continue reading ->
Apocalypes Not (.docx)


* Johan Norberg is a Swedish author and historian of ideas, devoted to promoting economic globalization and what he regards as classical liberal positions. He is arguably most known as the author of ‘In Defense of Global Capitalism’ (2001) and ‘Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future’ (2016). Since March 2007 he has been a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.


List of all Papers of the Conference

Kurt Leube:
Towards a Viable Alternative (.docx)

Terry L. Anderson:
Nature and Markets (.docx)

Johan Norberg:
Apocalypes Not (.docx)

Alex Kaiser:
Saving Nature from Politics (.docx)

Hardy Bouillon:
On the Misuse of Reason and Science (.docx)

Henrique Schneider:
Climate Change and Global Governance (.docx)

Pedro Schwartz:
The Tragedy of the Commons and Emerging Property Rights