Ignoring Reality   Leave a comment

This is Brad. Lela will be back, I promise.

So Sunday was Earth Day and I hardly noticed, but my lovely wife started this post and then asked me if I would finish it for her.

Do you remember all the apocalyptic predictions from the 1970s? They were the reasons given for a day of the year to worship nature as a pagan goddess.

During the first Earth Day observance (that actually lasted for a couple of months:

Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that “civilization will end within 15-30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”

“Man must stop polluting and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possibly extinction” New York Times editorial

“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” Paul Ehrlich confidently declared in the April 1970 issue of 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.”

“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…[1975] 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.”

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.”

“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.

Texas University professor, Peter Gunter 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.”

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….”

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.”

Barry Commoner predicted that decaying organic pollutants would use up all of the oxygen in America’s rivers, causing freshwater fish to suffocate.

Paul Ehrlich chimed in, predicting in 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.

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. (Note: According to the most recent CDC report, life expectancy in the US is 78.8 years).

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.’”

National Academy of Sciences Harrison Brown 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.

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 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.”

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.”

Wow, lots of fear-mongering. Have any of those predictions come true?

As the opening chart shows, the United States has “decarbonized” over the last decade or two. CO2 emissions have risen throughout most of the rest of the world, but the US’s emissions have fallen dramatically. Did the Earth Day movement have anything to do with that? Not really. It’s mostly because of hydraulic fracking and substitution of natural gas for coal as a electric generation fuel source.

Ronald Baily of Reason Magazine (who pulled together much of this awesome list) asked in on Earth Day 2000 (Earth Day 30):

“What will the Earth look like when Earth Day 60 rolls around in 2030?”

He predicted a much cleaner, much richer future world, with less hunger and malnutrition, less poverty and longer life spans, and with lower mineral and metal prices. But he also warned:

“There will be a disportionately influential group of doomsters predicting that the future – and the present — never looked so bleak.”

The hype and hysteria over these spectacularly wrong apocalyptic predictions will continue, because it’s been such a wonderful con and has reaped such lovely benefits for the environmentalists. Why would they want the gravy train to end by acknowledging reality?

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