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Earth Day and Four Decades of Fear

Monday, April 22, 2013

A vast array of blatherings have accumulated over the years, warning the end is nigh.

Earth Day means never having to say “Don’t worry.” For the environmental Left, the Passover seders may be past, but the plagues are eternal: floods, fires, cyclones, drought, extinctions, pestilence, famines, acid rain, ozone holes, cancer-causing power lines, global cooling, global warming, alar, plastics, mercury, depletions, deforestation, falling sperm counts, population bombs, plagues, water wars, nuclear winter, sex-changing fish, cancer-causing cell phones, pandemics, The Lifetime Channel. (OK, the last one is my personal nightmare.) You get the idea: doom, gloom, and apocalypse ad infinitum.

But amid the looming catastrophe, a tiny ray of hope survives: it is Earth Day, when all right-thinking members of the reality-based community proclaim their love of the Planet and their worship of Gaia. When many announce, as a matter of religious principle, their eagerness to allow others to suffer economically and physically so as to pursue the restoration of the Earth to its natural state of Eden, as it existed before mankind consumed the forbidden fruit of the tree of technological knowledge.1

Which brings us to the Book of Modern Environmentalism, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a deeply disingenuous propaganda exercise that nonetheless transformed pesticides — DDT in particular — and economic growth into political poison. How many mere humans, most of whom existed in grinding third-world poverty, have died because of it? The typical estimate is one of Stalin's statistics: at least 50 million.2

Well, omelets require broken eggs. As that great philosopher Dogbert has noted: “You can’t save the Earth unless you’re willing to make other people sacrifice.” Truer words were never spoken, in sharp contrast to the vast array of blatherings that have accumulated over the years in support of an expansion of government in the energy and environment context. These predictions and lamentations make for amusing reading, in no small part because so many still believe such nonsense — and because a continued production of this silliness, for many decades to come, is as certain as the sunrise. The environmental Left is nothing if not inventive. And so, in honor of Lenin’s birthday, oops, Earth Day, herewith a small sampling of this wisdom for the ages, in no particular order:

    • “The global community may be near a point of no return in efforts to prevent catastrophe from changes in Earth’s atmosphere.” (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “Doomsday Clock Moves Closer to Midnight,” January 11, 2012)
    • [The end of the world will occur] “between September 15 and 27, 1994.” “Judgment Day: May 21, 2011.” “[October 21, 2011] at this point, looks like it will be the final end of everything.” (Various predictions by Harold Camping, the president of Family Radio)
    • “Arctic Ocean Getting Warm: Seals Vanish and Icebergs Melt.” (Washington Post, November 2, 1922)
    • “The… gradual cooling [of] the past three decades… shows no indication of reversing.” (Time magazine, June 24, 1974)
    • “If present trends continue, the world will be… 11 degrees colder by the year 2000.” (Kenneth E.F. Watt, author of Principles of Environmental Science, Earth Day, 1970)
    • “In ten years, all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.” (Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb, Earth Day, 1970)
    • “[Oil supplies] will be running out in a couple of decades.” (Charles W. Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Energy, U.S. News and World Report, February 25, 1980)
    • “The world can no longer count on increases in oil production to meet its energy needs.” (Central Intelligence Agency, The World Oil Market in the Years Ahead, 1979)
    • “Supplies of oil… are diminishing [and] world oil [will] become very scarce and very expensive in the 1980s.” (Executive Office of the President, National Energy Program, 1977)
    • “Already the output of [natural] gas has begun to wane. Production of oil cannot long maintain its present rate.” (U.S. Coal Commission, December 10, 1923)
    • “All available evidence points to … a serious energy crisis in the middle or late 1980s.” (Ulf Lantzke, Executive Director, International Energy Agency, The New Republic, February 25, 1978)
    • “It will take only another 50 years… to use up the great bulk of the world’s supply of recoverable petroleum liquids and natural gas.” (National Academy of Sciences, Global Ecology, 1971)
    • “[By] 1995, the greenhouse effect would be desolating the heartlands of North America and Eurasia with horrific drought, causing crop failures and food riots.” (Michael Oppenheimer and Robert H. Boyle, Dead Heat: The Race Against the Greenhouse Effect, June 1991)
    • “By 1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching Earth by one half.” (Life magazine, January 1970)
    • “It is now generally recognized that while Al Gore and I were ridiculed, we were right about global warming [and] more hurricanes.” (Former president Bill Clinton, June 12, 2006)
    • “[In a few years] children just aren’t going to know what snow is. [Snow fall will be] a very rare and exciting event.” (David Viner, senior research scientist, Climate Research Unit, East Anglia University, March 20, 2000)
    • “[Because prices will be skyrocketing] we must adopt a system of gasoline rationing.” (Senator Edward Kennedy, New York Times, January 28, 1980)
    • ‘In ten years, all important animal life in the sea will be extinct.’
    • “Using computer models, researchers concluded that global warming would raise average annual temperatures nationwide two degrees by 2010.” (Associated Press, May 15, 1989)
    • “The evidence of warming [caused by man] is unequivocal.” (Former vice president Al Gore, March 21, 2007)
    • “Irreversible physical shortfalls in supplies may take place as early as 1988.  “Market prices [in 1988 will be] three or four times the current one.” (Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, Oil Minister of Saudi Arabia, New York Times, June 21 1979)
    • “If there’s no action [on climate change] before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.” (Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, New York Times, November 17, 2007)
    • “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s [“and 1980s” was added by Professor Ehrlich in a later edition of the book] the world will undergo famines — hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked on now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate, although many lives could be saved through dramatic programs to ‘stretch’ the carrying capacity of the Earth by increasing food production. But these programs will only provide a stay of execution unless they are accompanied by determined and successful efforts at population control. Population control is the conscious regulation of the numbers of human beings to meet the needs, not just of individual families, but of society as a whole.” (Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb, 1968)
    • “By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people, of little or no concern to the other 5-7 billion inhabitants of a sick world. If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.” (Paul Ehrlich, speech at the British Institute for Biology, September 1971)
    • “Arctic specialist Bernt Balchen says a general warming trend over the North Pole is melting the polar ice cap and may produce an ice-free Arctic Ocean by the year 2000.” (Christian Science Monitor, June 8, 1972)
    • “In 1990, oil could be selling for [$67 to $87] a barrel.” (U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Plan II, May 1979)
    • “Conservative estimates project a price of [$148] a barrel in 1985.” (“Energy: A Special Report,” National Geographic, February 1981)
    • “By 1983 gasoline will be at least [$5] per gallon.” (Kenneth Arrow, Nobel Laureate in Economics, Forbes, February 4, 1980)
    • “We’re going to be [facing shortages and higher prices] for years.” (Clifton C. Gavin, Chairman, Exxon Corporation, Business Week, December 31, 1979)
    • “Oil prices are going to rise in the future no matter who is president.” (President Jimmy Carter, March 31, 1979)
    • “An already serious energy [price] problem has now become an emergency… that will persist throughout the entire 1980s.” (Robert Stobaugh and Daniel Yergin, Foreign Affairs, Summer 1979)
    • “A coordinated policy is essential for accommodation between importers and exporters… so that prices rise at a predictable rate.” (Walter J. Levy, Foreign Affairs, Summer 1981)
    • “A government role is crucial to reduce U.S. energy vulnerability… [because] the U.S. will exhaust its own reserves in about ten years.” (Alan Madian, Foreign Policy, Summer 1979)

So there we have it. Eternal truths spoken to power. Until they became untruths. But the sun'll come out tomorrow. So ya gotta hang on 'til tomorrow. Come what may. Tomorrow, tomorrow: I love ya. Tomorrow! You’re only a day away!

Earth Day! You just can’t put a price on this kind of entertainment.

Benjamin Zycher is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

FURTHER READING: Zycher also asks “Would a Carbon Dioxide Tax Be ‘Efficient’?” Pierre Desrochers notes “Greed Is Green: How the Profit Motive Helps the Environment,” Jon Entine observes “Forestry Labeling War Turns Ugly as Greenpeace Bungles Logging Industry Attack,” and Karlyn Bowman and Andrew Rugg examine “Polls on Earth Day, Global Warming, and Terrorism.”




1. See, e.g., Paul Watson, founder, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society: “We need to radically and intelligently reduce human populations to fewer than one billion” and “curing the biosphere of the human virus will also require a radical and invasive approach.”
2. See, e.g., Robert W. Snow and Judy A. Omumbo, “Malaria,” in Dean T. Jamison, et. al., eds, Disease and Mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa, Washington D.C.: World Bank, 2006.



Image by Dianna Ingram / Bergman Group


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