When I went out last night for my walk with the dog, the Empire State Building was lit up in brilliant green, presumably in honor of Earth Day.
The spire on the new One World Trade Center was a similar shade of bright green. We should all join in feeling warm and fuzzy that we are saving the planet!
Call me a grinch, but I don't want to be associated with the people who promote Earth Day. Not that I have anything against being a good steward of the environment. I even picked up the litter on the sidewalk as I walked down the block! But Earth Day has a very unfortunate association with people who have used the promotion of phony environmental scares in the effort to impose authoritarian government on the people. Forty-eight years after the first Earth Day in 1970, the scares that got the thing going look, frankly, ridiculous in retrospect. Yet somehow, instead of developing a healthy skepticism of those who promote scary sin-and-redemption fantasies to aggrandize their own power, we've just moved on from the old fantasies to a whole crop of new and equally phony scare stories. And even more people seem to have bought into them. Is there any chance that today's environmental scare stories will look any less ridiculous forty-eight years from now?
Perhaps we should look back today at the predictions from 1970 of the original Earth Day promoters to see what, if anything, has stood the test of time. Needless to say, the current new crop of scare promoters will not be making this effort. But I have come across today several links all pointing to a long article from the year 2000 by Ron Bailey of Reason, titled "Earth Day Then and Now." In his article, Bailey compiled some dozens of predictions from original Earth Day promoters, all of which had already been proven completely false by 2000. And it's only gotten worse for them in the additional 18 years to the present.
The biggest alleged environmental issue of 1970 was what was then called the over-population crisis -- the proposition that human population was growing too fast for the world to support it. Of course, this being the environmental movement, population growth was not presented as just some issue or problem that should be addressed somehow; rather, it was presented in the most catastrophic and indeed apocalyptic terms: The over-population crisis will cause imminent mass famine! War! Disease! The collapse of civilization! At the time of the first Earth Day, super-doom-monger Paul Ehrlich was riding high on the success of his big book, "The Population Bomb," which had been published in 1968. Here are a couple of choice quotes that Bailey takes from Ehrlich at or about the time of Earth Day 1970:
"Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. 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… [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."
Here's another quote, not in Bailey's compilation, actually made by Ehrlich on the first Earth Day, April 22, 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."
Or there's this from North Texas State University's Peter Gunter:
"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."
Ehrlich and many others called for the wholesale suppression of human freedom so that governments could take control of the population. Fortunately, little of that came to pass. Today, of course, nothing close to the apocalyptic predictions from over-population has occurred. Not that everybody today has food abundance; far from it. But technology and better agriculture have made food production increase dramatically, while global famines have been greatly reduced and largely confined to areas of strife. The people of the world are better fed than ever, even though the population has about doubled (from under 4 billion to close to 8). Paul Ehrlich? Believe it or not, the guy is still alive, and still has some followers.
And then there was the second most important environmental crisis as predicted in 1970. You guessed it -- climate change! Oh, except for one thing: It was global cooling, rather than global warming! It is true that by 1970 the greenhouse warming theory was already abroad in the land. Nevertheless, at the time the global cooling apocalypse theorists clearly had the upper hand in predictions of catastrophe.
From a speech by ecologist Kenneth Watt of the University of California, Davis, on April 19, 1970:
"The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. 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."
By the way, the world actually had been "chilling sharply" during the post-war period up to 1970. Most to all of that temperature decline has since been removed from the official government temperature data records, as the previously-reported decline became inconvenient for the now-official global-warming-apocalypse narrative.
Or there's this, from Newsweek magazine, January 26, 1970:
"This theory [of global cooling] assumes that the earth's cloud cover will continue to thicken as more dust, fumes, and water vapor are belched into the atmosphere by industrial smokestacks and jet planes. Screened from the sun's heat, the planet will cool, the water vapor will fall and freeze, and a new Ice Age will be born."
To read lots more spectacularly failed scary predictions, read Bailey's 2000 article. And here's a similar one from 2015 (substantially but not completely overlapping) from Mark Perry of AEI.