Thursday, May 8, 2008
Earth Day: The Doomsayers Were Wrong
Another Earth Day (April 22) has come and gone.
Earth Day is a great time to celebrate our planet and discuss serious environmental concerns.
It's also a time to pause and remember that, during the first Earth Day in 1970, some of the world's leading (and loudest) environmentalists were terrifying the public with horrific predictions of planet-wide doom. Predictions that, thankfully, were spectacularly wrong.
The Washington Policy Center (WPC), a free-market think tank, reminds us:
"Most Earth Day predictions turned out to be stunningly wrong. In 1970, environmentalists said there would soon be a new ice age and massive deaths from air pollution. The New York Times foresaw the extinction of the human race. Widely-quoted biologist Paul Ehrlich predicted worldwide starvation by 1975.
"On this Earth Day 2008, new predictions will again be made about looming environmental disasters about to strike our planet. If past experience is any guide, most of these predictions are wrong. People concerned about our planet's future should be wary of statements from activists and other interested groups, so we stay focused on real environmental concerns, and don't waste time on fearsome predictions that will never happen."
Here are some examples from 1970, the year of the first Earth Day, gathered by the Washington Policy Center:
* "By 1985...air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the earth by one half..." -- Life magazine, January 1970.
* "...civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind..." -- biologist George Wald, Harvard University, April 19, 1970.
* By 1995, "...somewhere between 75 and 85 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct..." -- Sen. Gaylord Nelson, quoting Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, Look magazine, April 1970.
* Because of increased dust, cloud cover and water vapor "...the planet will cool, the water vapor will fall and freeze, and a new Ice Age will be born..." -- Newsweek magazine, January 26, 1970.
* The world will be "...eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age..." -- Kenneth Watt, speaking at Swarthmore University, April 19, 1970.
* "We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation..." -- biologist Barry Commoner, University of Washington, writing in the journal Environment, April 1970.
* "Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from the intolerable deteriorations and possible extinction..." -- The New York Times editorial, April 20, 1970.
* "By 1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half..." -- Life magazine, January 1970.
* "Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make..." -- Paul Ehrlich, interview in Mademoiselle magazine, April 1970.
* "...air pollution...is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone..." -- Paul Ehrlich, interview in Mademoiselle magazine, April 1970.
* Paul Ehrlich also predicted that in 1973, 200,000 Americans would die from air pollution, and that by 1980 the life expectancy of Americans would be 42 years.
* "It is already too late to avoid mass starvation..." -- Earth Day organizer Denis Hayes, The Living Wilderness, Spring 1970.
* "By the year 2000...the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America and Australia, will be in famine..." -- Peter Gunter, North Texas State University, The Living Wilderness, Spring 1970.
Some of this may seem laughable now, but it was taken very seriously at the time. Had the nations of the world followed the prescriptions of these original Earth Day prophets of doom, it is possible that millions or even billions of people would have suffered and died.
The Washington Policy Center notes: "By being skeptical about routine portents of doom, we can stay focused on the real threats that face our planet, and on the reasonable and achievable actions we as a society can take to meet them."
Today -- as food prices are doubling and food riots taking place in impoverished nations as a direct result of the disastrous ethanol scheme pushed by today's statist doomsayers -- that's a vital lesson to remember.
Washington Policy Center
Washington Post on the ethanol disaster
Liberator Online from The Advocates