The Malthusian fallacy is a dreadful belief that human beings are net consumers of resources. Yet the productivity and ingenuity of humanity is presumably noticeable to those who do not hunt and gather their food barehanded. In 1974, two years after The Club of Rome published The Limits to Growth, an apocalyptic treatise warning of overpopulation and environmental calamity (linked above, see “tizzy”), the global population reached 4 billion people. Thirteen years later, in 1987: 5 billion people. Twelve years later, in 1999: 6 billion. Twelve more years passed and as of 2011 the global population stood at 7 billion individuals.
At no point during this near-doubling of most important number on earth did the sky catch fire. Life got better. And resources became less scarce! Julian Simon handily won his bet that copper, chromium, nickel, tin, and tungsten would be cheaper in 1990 than they had been in 1980, even though he let his pessimistic counterpart choose those five commodities. Resources held as private property are, as a rule, diligently stewarded. Historically, resources have been abandoned on a global scale in favor of superior substitutes, not because they have been depleted.
Human ingenuity should make us rationally optimistic about the future, in the words of scientific writer Matt Ridley. A community of sufficient size will inevitably spawn and adopt novel arrangements of resources which create unanticipated opportunities and generally improve the human condition. Presumably, solutions to problems like climate change are possible. We just have to create them.
We should look forward with abiding serenity to the unknown unknown wonders of our brilliant tomorrow. As Julian Simon pointed out, humanity is the ultimate resource. As valuable as it is, we should hold it in higher regard.