When I started blogging a couple of years ago, I promised myself I would try to avoid controversial topics like politics or religion. However, yesterday was Earth Day #49, and I ran across some items that I felt were worth sharing. I will leave it to you, my readers, to determine whether I violated my commitment to you.
Courtesy of Mark Perry's Carpe Diem blog and a May 2000 article in Reason Magazine written by their science correspondent, Ronald Bailey, what follows is a summary of some of the predictions they quoted that were made around the time of the first Earth Day in 1970.
- Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
- “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.
- “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” Paul Ehrlich 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.”
- Paul 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.
- 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.”
- 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.'”
- Harrison Brown, a scientist at the National Academy of Sciences, published a chart in Scientific American that looked at metal reserves and estimated that 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.”
- 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.”
I could go on, and on, but you get the point. The problem isn’t that so-called experts make predictions; the problem is that policies that affect us all are implemented based on projections that turn out to be incorrect. Often projections by government agencies, including the Congressional Budget Office, turn out wrong. For example, when Medicare was enacted in 1965, it was projected that the federal government would spend $9 billion on Part A hospital services in 1990. Actual spending 25 years later totaled $67 billion - an increase of 640% compared to the initial estimates. The CBO merely scores the data it is given - garbage in, garbage out.
What is important to me is the health of our economy. We need to remain vigilant and promote policies that improve our economy. These policies have a direct impact on your financial well-being. With so much talk about a Green New Deal, I thought it would be instructive to take a trip down memory lane to the first Earth Day.
Until next time, cheers!