Earth Day – The Broken Record That Never Stops

I noticed Google today had a graphic up, as it often does, that you can click on. What’s the occasion today? Oh! It’s Earth Day!

Earth Day was started by Gaylord Nelson, the Democratic senator from Wisconsin. It was the single largest national demonstration in American history. 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.

What did Earth day preach back in 1970? Here are some examples from

• 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.

• “By 1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half…” Life magazine, January 1970.

• Paul Ehrlich 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,” wrote 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.

Sound familiar? Of course these prophets of doom were wrong – spectacularly wrong. Today things are much better by almost every measure. Four decades later the apocalypse has been pushed back 50 or 100 years, and this time it will be caused by manmade global warming.  This time, they insist, they are certainly right. You see, now they’ve got computer models!

The circus continues.

Source of Earth Day 1970 predictions:

2 responses to “Earth Day – The Broken Record That Never Stops”

  1. Actually Thoughtful

    What is missing from your discussion, of course, is the policies that prevented the claims. With our 20/20 hindsight some of the claims look outlandish. Funny thing is the only global cooling claim I have ever seen is the Newsweek article. To conflate the 70s global cooling scare with the instrumented trend in temperature and the logic chain to CO2 is a pretty big stretch.

    Can you list the legislation that directly led to “Today things are much better by almost every measure.” Was it Adam Smith’s invisible hand pushing corporations to reduce pollution? Was it the Clean Air Act (inspired by Earth Day)? Just kind of checking in on your ideology here.

  2. Ryan T

    Isn’t it the preponderance of scientific evidence that counts most? Therefore, things like the oft-debunked 1970’s ice age myth are silly examples. The scientific community (more often speaking in terms of probability than certainty) was overwhelmingly calling for more study, not predicting an ice age (a few bits of speculation aside). And is it possible that some things were “pushed back” because of heightened awareness and reform? Yes, there have been incidences of over-reaction, and cases of advancement in certain sectors buying us more time. But past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results, and sometimes vigilance is the best insurance.

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