Phineas P. Phlaegenhoffer to the rescue

Published September 1, 1999

The Positively Profound Power of Human Progress videotape; 28 minutes, $19.95 Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, 1999

At a time when schools are being bombarded with EPA-funded environmental education materials decrying progress and the role of man on Earth, comes a well-balanced, informative, and highly entertaining videotape for children ages 10 and older: The Positively Profound Power of Human Progress–P4.

Written by Craig Rucker and David Rothbard and produced by the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), the tape mixes animation and live action as Colonel Phineas P. Phlaegenhoffer takes us through both time and space in his miraculous flying machine, the USS Mutley.

Phlaegenhoffer–who comes off as a pleasant combination of kindly old Gheppeto, historian, and scientist–takes issue with the negative environmental gloom and doomers, preferring instead to demonstrate the positive effects of mankind’s progress.

Phlaegenhoffer points out, for example, that there was a time, not so long ago, when worldwide plague and famine were common. In America, one in ten babies died before they were a year old, malaria transmitted by mosquitoes was common, and insects wiped out crops. All of this is handled in a gentle, youngster-friendly way.

He then goes on to demonstrate how human progress has made the world a better, safer place to live–and live longer, to an average age in America of near 80. He relates our success to great advances in several arenas.

  • Energy, Phlaegenhoffer shows, has allowed us to produce the products we use in our daily lives. It is not only essential, but has been made far more efficient and far less polluting over the years.
  • Transportation, he illustrates, has made our lives better, brought people and foodstuffs together, and cut travel times. Time was, he points out, that 15 to 30 miles was about as far as a person could go in a day; today we cross oceans in hours. And, he points out, recent advances have made such travel virtually pollution-free.
  • Accomplishments in agriculture and medicine, Phlaegenhoffer explains, have done the most to improve our lives. He particularly demonstrates how modern pesticides and herbicides have multiplied our food supply many times over, enabling us to feed an ever-expanding population better than it has ever eaten in history. In Mark Twain’s time, he notes, one person in every two had to grow food in order to feed the world’s population. Today, it takes just two in 100.

All is not rosy in Phlaegenhoffer’s world. He offers a balanced view of our environmental history, readily acknowledging many mistakes that were made in the past: over-logging, pollution of water and air, and destruction of animal habitat. Yet, unlike anti-human extremists, Phlaegenhoffer also takes note of the tremendous strides we have made in living with nature, and the dramatic ways we have been reversing our earlier mistakes.

The 28-minute video concludes with a positive message for progress. Phlaegenhoffer tells that there have always been and always will be those who irrationally fear progress and ignore science. There were those who thought pasteurization would poison milk, rather than protect us from life-threatening bacteria; electricity would make us unable to sleep; Fulton’s steamboat would never start (and when it did, would never stop); and microwaves were dangerous and would destroy our food.

Phlaegenhoffer encourages young people to take a positive, optimistic view of the future and man’s ability to handle whatever comes by continuing progress.

This is an encouraging, upbeat, and accurate view of man’s place in the world. It belongs in every young person’s home and, certainly, every school in America. As we go to press, we have been told that a lesson plan and other materials are being developed to compliment the video.

To obtain a copy of The Positively Profound Power of Human Progress–P4, call 800/729-2237 or send a check payable to CFACT ($19.95, plus $4.25 shipping and handling) to CDR Communications, 9310-B Old Keene Mill Road, Burke, VA 22015. Virginia residents add 4.5 percent sales tax.