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Some Lighthearted Reading for the Weekend — Earth Day predictions of 1970

Whilst over at the Globe and Mail wind energy debate that continues to rage on, someone posted this link that I thought was quite intriguing.  Those of us who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s have had more than our share of fear-mongering shoved down our throats for the past 40 years.  That’s why we tend to look at the present doomsday predictions with a bit of a jaundiced eye.

So from the “I Hate The Media” site (the name alone tells me I could easily become a fan) here are the earth predictions from 40 years ago.  Funny how that old saying applies so perfectly here.  “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” — Donna Quixote

1970 Predictions:

  • “We have about five more years at the outside to do something.” — Kenneth Watt, ecologist
  • “Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind” — George Wald, Harvard Biologist
  • “We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.” — Barry Commoner, Washington University biologist
  • “Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence, but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.” — New York Times editorial, the day after the first Earth Day
  • “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.” — Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist
  • “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 1980’s.” — Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist
  • “It’s already too late to avoid mass starvation.” — Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day
  • “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 the earth by one half.” — Life Magazine, January 1970
  • “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.” — Kenneth Watt, Ecologist
  • “We are prospecting for the very last of our resources and using up the non-renewable things many times faster than we are finding new ones.” — Martin Litton, Sierra Club director
  • “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.” — Kenneth Watt, Ecologist
  • Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all species of living animals will be extinct.” — Senator Gaylord Nelson
  • (Editor’s note:  This one’s my favourite.  I remember it well.) “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 and eleven degrees colder in the year 2000.  This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age. — Kenneth Watt, Ecologist
  • Paul Ehrlich warned in the May 1970 issue of Audubon that chlorinated hydrocarbons “may have substantially reduced the life expectancy of people born since 1945.” In his “Eco-Catastrophe!” scenario, Ehrlich put a finer point on these fears by envisioning a 1973 Department of Health, Education, and Welfare study which would find “that Americans born since 1946…now had a life expectancy of only 49 years, and predicted that if current patterns continued this expectancy would reach 42 years by 1980, when it might level out.”
  • Newsweek in its special January 26, 1970, report on “The Ravaged Environment” noted that many scientists saw temperatures dropping: “This theory 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.”
  • “I’m scared,” confessed Paul Ehrlich in the 1970 Earth Day issue of Look. “I have a 14 year old daughter whom I love very much. I know a lot of young people, and their world is being destroyed. My world is being destroyed. I’m 37 and I’d kind of like to live to be 67 in a reasonably pleasant world, and not die in some kind of holocaust in the next decade.”


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