The Rational Optimist Part 3: the wheels are falling off

George Monbiot (UK Guardian) has also picked up on just bad Ridley’s book is:

“…His book is elegantly written and cast in the language of evolution, but it’s the same old cornutopian nonsense we’ve heard one hundred times before (cornutopians are people who envisage a utopia of limitless abundance). In this case, however, it has already been spectacularly disproved by the author’s experience.

The Rational Optimist is riddled with excruciating errors and distortions. Ridley claims, for instance, that “every country that tried protectionism” after the second world war suffered as a result…

…Ridley asserts that average temperature changes over “the last three decades” have been “relatively slow”. In reality, the rise over this period has been the most rapid since instrumental records began. He maintains that “11 of 13 populations” of polar bears are “growing or steady”. There are in fact 19 populations of polar bears. Of those whose fluctuations have been measured, one is increasing, three are stable, and eight are declining.

He uses blatant cherry-picking to create the impression that ecosystems are recovering: water snake numbers in Lake Erie, fish populations in the Thames, bird’s eggs in Sweden. But as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment shows, of 65 global indicators of human impacts on biodiversity, only one – the extent of temperate forests – is improving. Eighteen are stable, in all the other cases, the impacts are increasing.”

This is good, and is essentially the same conclusions I’d reached.

More attention needs to be paid to how Ridley has distorted the science. Other commentators will hopefully start to (justifiably) dig and find further errors.

At this point, I think Ridley should be embarrassed.

How he responds will be interesting. I’ll be watching his blog – Rational Optimist – he established to compliment the launch of his book.

[Note: thanks to reader John for pointing this out]

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