The real world tends to NOT cooperate with the Greens constant scream of “DOOM, DOOM, The World Is Ending!!” I was ten when the first Earth Day came around and these predictions were made. That was 45 years ago and somehow none of that stuff happened.
On the 30th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970, Ronald Bailey wrote an excellent article in the May 2000 edition of Reason Magazine titled “Earth Day, Then and Now.” In that article, Bailey noted that around the time of the first Earth Day, and in the years following, there was a “torrent of apocalyptic predictions” and many of those predictions were featured in his Reason article. Well, now that more than 40 years have passed, how accurate were those predictions around the time of the first Earth Day? Wrong, spectacularly wrong, and here are 18 examples:
1. Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
Didn’t happen. We also did not surrender to the Soviets like Wald wanted either.
2. “We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation,” wrote Washington University biologist Barry Commoner in the Earth Day issue of the scholarly journal Environment.
Some how we have more trees, cleaner air and live better. Sorry, Barry.
3. The day after the first Earth Day, the New York Times editorial page warned, “Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.”
4. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” Paul Ehrlich confidently declared in the April 1970 Mademoiselle. “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”
I don’t remember any of that horror happening. Wasn’t it on the news?
5. “Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born,” wrote Paul Ehrlich in a 1969 essay titled “Eco-Catastrophe! “By… some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.”
The UN says that the biggest problem in the world is obesity. The 1980’s were some 30 odd years ago.
6. Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the 1970 Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.”
I think we got the great party on in the 1980’s
7. “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” declared Denis Hayes, the chief organizer for Earth Day, in the Spring 1970 issue of The Living Wilderness.
Considering it’s 46 years later and mass starvation hasn’t happened, maybe it isn’t.
8. Peter Gunter, a North Texas State University professor, wrote in 1970, “Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”
Something went wrong, somewhere, because widespread famines didn’t.
9. In January 1970, Life reported, “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….”
Scientists predict. Need to remember that. The only time I ever had a gas mask was a cold war leftover from United House wrecking as kid. Looking out the window today, it must have Really sunny in 1970 if sunlight’s down by half. What a wonderful day
10. Ecologist Kenneth Watt told Time that, “At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.”
Nitrogen build up. From 79% of the atmosphere to 79.1% Nitrogen is transparent.
11. Barry Commoner predicted that decaying organic pollutants would use up all of the oxygen in America’s rivers, causing freshwater fish to suffocate.
Actually what happens is that algae expands in rivers and saturates the water with oxygen. More fish. Which is why there is more life in Long Island Sound than any body of water on the planet.
12. Paul Ehrlich chimed in, predicting in his 1970 that “air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.” Ehrlich sketched a scenario in which 200,000 Americans would die in 1973 during “smog disasters” in New York and Los Angeles.
I was in NYC in 1973 a lot. Never worried about smog then, don’t now.
13. Paul Ehrlich warned in the May 1970 issue of Audubon that DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbons “may have substantially reduced the life expectancy of people born since 1945.” Ehrlich warned that Americans born since 1946…now had a life expectancy of only 49 years, and he predicted that if current patterns continued this expectancy would reach 42 years by 1980, when it might level out.
I imagine that the funeral business was booming in 1995. Or not.
14. Ecologist Kenneth Watt declared, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’”
ROTFLMA about this one. It’s looking as if oil will NEVER run out. But we all didn’t understand that then.
15. Harrison Brown, a scientist at the National Academy of Sciences, published a chart in Scientific American that looked at metal reserves and estimated the humanity would totally run out of copper shortly after 2000. Lead, zinc, tin, gold, and silver would be gone before 1990.
See Julian Simon, Ehrlich, bet. The fact is that we have more of all those metals than we did in 1970.
16. Sen. Gaylord Nelson wrote in Look that, “Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.”
In 1995 all the animals would be extinct? Somebody neglected to tell that to the animals.
17. In 1975, Paul Ehrlich predicted that “since more than nine-tenths of the original tropical rainforests will be removed in most areas within the next 30 years or so, it is expected that half of the organisms in these areas will vanish with it.”
Professor Ehrlich should have stuck to butterflies. Apparently that’s a scale he understands. The Amazon basin, not so much.
18. Kenneth Watt warned about a pending Ice Age in a speech. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”
Cooling, warming, cant’ they get the disasters straight.
These predictions, seen now look crazy. For a some of us, even then they seemed more than a little off the wall. I remember my hysterical neighbors and what seemed to be the disasters of the week. And the Greenpeace girls with their revolutionary ferver. And the constant drum beat of DOOM, DOOM. I’m not really surprised at the high anxiety levels of the 1970’s. The culture fed that on itself. None the horrible predictions ever came true. It’s like the cartoon with “the end is coming in ” and successive dates scratched through. One would think that the fact that doom hasn’t shown up would cause these people to lose their shrillness, but it hasn’t. Doom seem to have not happened.
A lot of very bad policies based on those predictions did happen though. All through the 1970’s we got rules and regulations to “conserve energy.” Most of those, like the CAFE standard for cars are still around. Causing compliance and hidden costs all the way.
All this was, of course firmly bound up in the belief in Malthusianism. The idea that people are too stupid to know when not have kids and who to grow food rendered into terrible equations that have never actually reflected reality. But then reality has never been strong with the green crowd. Rather the opposite, in fact. Which is one of the things that makes them so dangerous. For a group that prides itself on their science, the Greens don’t know very much. But that ‘s typical of a cultish group like the Greens. They know science all right, cargo cult science.
Like the idea that nature has a set point, a perfect point where everything is supposed to be. Or the claim that they believe in evolution, yet try to keep species from going extinct. The thing is that live is chaotic and changing by it’s very nature. And species went extinct for billions of years long before humans were around. Which in many cases is a VERY good thing. Trying to take something as dynamic and chaotic as the biosphere and make static is going to be a fruitless effort in unrealized achievement that in the end is completely pointless. Yet that is what the Greens are trying to do.
The problem is that the Greens want to worship the planet rather than live on it. They want to fix everything in that mythical set point of theirs and they’ve demonstrated that they are perfectly willing to sacrifice humanity to achieve that. What they don’t understand is that would be the worst thing that could happen. A fixed system can’t respond to changes and the biosphere is, by it’s very nature changing all the time. All the Greens will achieve is a disaster that will hurt or kill billions of people if they get what they want and change nothing.
It’s time we celebrated the great civilization that so many worked so hard to create for us. Especially those who toiled to create new enterprises that have done so much to improve our lives. We take so for granted because all too frequently those benefits are invisible. I like being able to cook food with a small efficient box that does that cooking in seconds. I like that my reach and ability to travel is world spanning. I like my wall size TV that bringe the world into my home. And I really thank all the creators, inventors, Entrepreneurs and risk takers who did the things that enables my life to be so much better than those even just a century ago. It’s time we celebrated Capitalism and burned some carbon in honor to our wonderful fruitful prosperous lives.
We should be celebrating capitalism rather than worshiping in a cargo cult hoping that if we make the right noises the good things will come. The real world doesn’t work like that. So why do we listen to the people who have always been wrong.