It is no good proposing that we go back to some simple village life and halve our population by some means which have not been revealed, as if that would solve all our problems. Indeed, some of the Third World’s primitive farming methods created the deserts and denuded the forests. And some of Eastern Europe’s crude technologies polluted the skies and poisoned the rivers. It’s prosperity which creates the technology that can keep the earth healthy.

—Margaret Thatcher. Speech to the Conservative Party conference, Blackpool, October 13, 1989.

Industrial pollution is something that should be constantly reduced and ultimately eliminated. History proves that this is the trend in free countries. The blackening of London’s buildings caused by burning coal was eliminated through the introduction of electricity and the banning of coal-burning fires. The Los Angeles smog is now all but gone thanks to strict emissions standards enabled by technological advances. The introduction of lead-free pipes, fuel and paint has greatly reduced the release of that toxin into the environment. The introduction of wind farms, tidal power and hydroelectricity is reducing our reliance on mercury-belching coal-fired power stations. Advances in battery technology are allowing the removal of the internal combustion engine from cars. These advances work in tandem with stricter emissions laws. In a free country, concerned citizens continually urge their leaders to pass stricter and stricter emissions laws.

In the 1960s and 1970s Lake Erie, one of North America’s Great Lakes, became badly polluted. Malthusians blamed overpopulation. In fact pollution was the culprit. Multiple laws passed since that time have resulted in huge improvements in water quality, and now the lake is close to its original pristine condition. This improvement has occurred despite the fact that the surrounding population has hugely increased in the meantime.

This holds true for all pollution: it is caused by releasing toxic substances into the environment, not by our existence. Pollution is solved by ever-stricter emissions laws enabled by technological advances.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove