If you were to ask an Icelandic sheep farmer freezing in his longhouse 500 years ago: “hey, will those rainy mountains and geysers make your descendants wealthy?” he would have said “you’re crazy. sheep and fish are natural resources, rainy mountains just get in the way.”
Fast forward 500 years. Those rainy mountains provide tons of fast-flowing water, which can be turned into something the sheep farmer couldn’t even imagine – cheap electricity. This electricity can be used to smelt something else the sheep farmer didn’t know existed – pure aluminum. This aluminum is valuable because it enables thousands of technologies that – you guessed it – the sheep farmer could barely have imagined.
With this story and many, many like it, I always find it surprising that many people still say “yes, well NOW we know what the limits are and should really slow down.”
Inspired by: Planet Money Podcast – “A City on the Moon”
Counterarguments Include: Ah, but now we have science that tells us the value of all resources.
Learn more: Julian Simon wikipedia. Julian Simon Econtalk. Julian Simon Planet Money. Aluminum.