David French of National Review Online takes issue with a recent New York Times essay, in which a Notre Dame English professor lamented his newborn daughter’s birth on a “dystopian planet” filled with “extinction and catastrophe.”

Think for a moment about the elements of modern life that [Roy] Scranton condemns in his essay. Cars and roads that enable people to travel to hospitals for the births of their children, box stores and drive-throughs that provide goods and comfort and nourishment without the necessity of scratching out a living from the land. Curiously, he even decries “drainage ditches” and “waste fields” that keep our communities sanitary and protect public health.

Indeed, it is the very spread of this progress — the spread of the very things that Scranton decries as the instruments of our doom — that has contributed to longer life expectancies across the planet and a stunning 74 percent plunge in extreme poverty from 1990 to 2015. I wonder: Are the speculative projections of a dystopian future ever weighed against the very real relief from a dystopian present? Do the many millions of lives saved now matter when we calculate the “costs” of progress?

And even if your focus is on the future, does our past ability to triumph over the challenges of the natural world — challenges that shortened human lives and impoverished generations past — give you any confidence for the days ahead?