Earth day

Earth Day Turns 50

Half a century later, a look back at the forecasters who got the future wrong—and one who got it right


About 20 million Americans turned out for the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Lectures and rallies took place at more than 2,000 college campuses, 10,000 elementary and high schools, and thousands of other places across the country. Forty-two states adopted resolutions endorsing Earth Day, and Congress recessed so that legislators could participate in the activities in their districts. It is sometimes described as, up to that time, the largest public demonstration in history.

The lectures and literature surrounding the event featured lots of dismal predictions about the future. One such compendium of doom was The Environmental Handbook, whose cover noted that it had been "prepared for the first national environmental teach-in." Commissioned by the group Friends of the Earth, the book preached the perils of rising population and imminent depletion of nonrenewable resources. Many of its contributors—let's call them the Catastrophists—warned that even such drastic actions as halving the number of human beings and stopping economic growth completely might not be enough to prevent the imminent ecological cataclysm.

A different group of researchers believed that while economic growth and technological progress had created some ecological problems, these things also would be a source of solutions. Let's call these folks the Prometheans. The economist Theodore Schultz argued in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1972 that the expansion of modern agriculture would free up more land for nature. Other proponents of this more sanguine outlook included the oceanographer Cy Adler, the economist Christopher Freeman, and Nature editor emeritus John Maddox, author of the 1972 book The Doomsday Syndrome.

Today, the Earth Day Network hopes a billion people across the world will participate in Earth Day 2020, where the 50th anniversary focus will be on man-made climate change. Living as we do in the future that the Catastrophists and the Prometheans were forecasting, now is a great time to look back at the claims made five decades ago. Which side had the abler prophets?

The Catastrophists

In his contribution to The Environmental Handbook, an essay called "The Limits of Adaptability," the biologist René Dubos claimed that "the dangers posed by overpopulation are more grave and more immediate in the U.S. than in less industrialized countries. This is due in part to the fact that each U.S. citizen uses more of the world's natural resources than any other human being and destroys them more rapidly, thereby contributing massively to the pollution of his own surroundings and of the earth as a whole."

Handbook editor Garrett De Bell's essay claimed that overpopulation was the biggest reason for mankind's increasing use of pollution-causing energy sources. While "population control will take time," De Bell argued, we could get a start on a solution "by ceasing to use power for trivial purposes." Specifically, the prices for energy supplies should be so scaled as to discourage people from using such "abundant luxuries" as blenders, can openers, power saws, mowers, clothes dryers, air conditioners, hair dryers—and cars, of course: "If you wanted to design a transportation system to waste the earth's energy reserves and pollute the air as much as possible, you couldn't do much better than our present system dominated by the automobile."

De Bell also noted that burning fossil fuels was increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. "Scientists are becoming worried about increasing CO2 levels because of the greenhouse effect, with its possible repercussions on the world climate," he wrote. Reducing energy use in the U.S. by 25 percent during the following decade could be a start toward "preventing disastrous climatic changes."

In their contribution to the Handbook, political scientist Robert Rienow and his wife, author Leona Train Rienow, declared that "a New Yorker on the street took into his lungs the equivalent in toxic materials of 38 cigarettes a day." Although factories and residential heating contributed to urban smog, automobiles were the biggest culprits: "While cars get faster and longer, lives get slower and shorter. While Chrysler competes with Buick for the getaway, cancer competes with emphysema for the layaway. This generation is indeed going to have to choose between humans and the automobile. Perhaps most families have too many of both."

The book's most urgent vision of imminent global environmental disaster was courtesy of the Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich. He sketched a scenario in which devastating famines would kill tens of millions of people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America by the end of the 1970s, and smog disasters in Los Angeles and New York would kill 200,000 Americans in 1973. Warning that "America's resource situation was bad and bound to get worse," he dismissed "cornucopian economists" by imagining future congressional hearings in which a "distinguished geologist from the University of California" would urge that "economists be legally required to learn at least the most elementary facts of geology."

Ehrlich's essay was not a prediction for how the 1970s would literally unfold. But it was obviously designed to scare people about the impending ecological apocalypse, and it did conclude with an actual prediction: "Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born." He added that 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."

"Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make," Ehrlich confidently 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."

Harrison Brown of the National Academy of Sciences published a chart in the September 1970 issue of Scientific American projecting that humanity would run out of copper shortly after 2000; lead, zinc, tin, gold, and silver would be gone before 1990. Brown claimed that his estimates took into account the possibilities that "new reserves will be discovered by exploration or created by innovation." The February 2, 1970, issue of Time quoted the ecologist Kenneth Watt: "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."

And in January 1970, Life magazine warned: "In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution."

The Prometheans

People in developed countries "have been assailed by prophecies of calamity," Maddox wrote in The Doomsday Syndrome. "To some, population growth is the most immediate threat. Others make more of pollution of various kinds, the risk that the world will run out food or natural resources or even the possibility that economic growth and the prosperity it brings spell danger for the human race."

The trajectories Maddox foresaw for population and food production differed dramatically from those predicted by the Catastrophists. Technologically advanced rich countries, he noted, had undergone a demographic transition from the Malthusian past of high fertility/high mortality societies to a high fertility/low mortality combination. But this, he argued, was a temporary stage; we were already entering a population-stabilizing low fertility/low mortality state. "Although the demographic transition has only just begun in large parts of the developing world, there is every reason to expect that it will produce demographic stability entirely comparable with that which now exists in Western Europe and elsewhere in the industrialized world," he concluded. "The population explosion has all the signs of being a damp squib."

Food production, meanwhile, was "now increasing much faster than population." During the 1960s, Maddox observed, it grew at 2.7 percent annually, handily outstripping the global population growth rate of 2 percent a year. In India and Southeast Asia, food production was increasing at 4 percent annually, about double their population growth rates. And further improvements were possible.

With regard to energy, Maddox cited estimates from 1970 that "there are more, but not much more, than 300,000 million tons of petroleum [about 2.1 trillion barrels] still to be extracted from the ground." At the then-current rate of extraction of 15 billion barrels annually, he calculated that supplies would last for 135 years.

And other natural resources? "Techniques for exploration and extraction of metals seem to have kept ahead of scarcity," he observed. Consequently, supplies of metals "are becoming economically more plentiful, not more scarce."

Maddox fully acknowledged that pollution was harming people and the natural world. Cutting air pollution in the U.S. by 50 percent, he said, would increase life expectancy by three to five years. But he did not think pollution threatened the very existence of the human race. It was, he argued, an open-access commons problem that could be solved through technology and sensible public policy. In 60 American cities, he pointed out, average levels of smokiness had already declined by 20 percent from 1957 to 1970; sulfur dioxide had fallen by a third from 1962 to 1969.

Noting that burning fossil fuels was increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, Maddox calculated that CO2 would increase by 15 percent by 2000. That is, in fact, what happened. He also predicted that that rise would result in "an increase of the temperature on the surface of the earth by something like one-half degree centigrade." That was also just about right.

Finally, "if it turns out that the scale of industrial activity is so great that the accumulation of carbon dioxide threatens climate change," Maddox wrote, the same ingenuity that was reducing other forms of pollution "could be applied to regulate the concentration of the gas. To be sure, such an intervention would require expensive and historically important changes in industrial practices, but calamity is avoidable."

The bottom line for Maddox was that "technology and prosperity are not the inherent nuisances of which environmentalists continually complain, but rather, the means by which a better environment could be created."

Who Was More Right?

World population has increased since 1970, though at a lower rate than predicted by the Catastrophists. At the time of the first Earth Day, there were 3.7 billion people on Earth; that has now risen to 7.6 billion. On the other hand, the global total fertility rate back then was 4.8 children per woman; it has now plummeted to 2.4. In 83 countries—including the United States—fertility is below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. Those 83 countries represent half the world's population. Wolfgang Lutz, a demographer at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, projects that world population will peak in this century and then begin to fall.

Though our population doubled, those globe-spanning famines did not occur. Instead, world food production more than tripled, with average per-capita calories supplied rising from around 2,400 to nearly 3,000 per day. In the U.S., corn yields since 1970 have grown from about 60 bushels per acre to nearly 170 now. Modern agriculture is becoming so productive that the Rockefeller University researcher Jesse Ausubel thinks humanity is at the cusp of "peak farmland," and that our total use of land for agriculture will soon begin to decline.

Meanwhile, Maddox appears to have been too conservative—not too optimistic—in his beliefs about global petroleum resources. In 2014, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated the total amount of technically recoverable petroleum at about 3.4 trillion barrels.

Just as the world did not run out of oil, it did not run out of copper, lead, zinc, tin, gold, or silver. In 1974, the total world reserves of copper amounted to 417 million tons. The U.S. Geological Survey reports that in 2019, world copper reserves stood at 830 million tons. In 1974, world lead reserves were 132 million tons. In 2019, they were 83 million tons. Zinc reserves went from 236 million tons to 230 million tons. Tin reserves moved from 10 million tons to 4.7 million tons. Gold reserves rose from 41,000 tons to 54,000 tons. Silver reserves moved up from 187,000 tons to 560,000 tons.

As you may have noticed, city dwellers in developed countries are not wearing gas masks as they go about their daily lives. As forecast by Maddox, urban air was cleared using technology and the "vigorous application of social instruments, laws, and taxes." From 1970 to 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency reports, America's combined emissions of six key air pollutants dropped by 74 percent, even as the U.S. economy grew by 275 percent. The United Kingdom and the European Union have likewise experienced steep declines in air pollution.

Surface water pollution has also been reduced. Based on 14.6 million pollution readings at 265,000 monitoring sites between 1972 and 2014, the EPA reports that in 1972, 30 percent of tested surface waters in the United States did not meet the fishable standard (thriving habitats for fish that are safe to eat); only 15 percent failed that standard in 2014.

Both Catastrophist De Bell and Promethean Maddox worried about the possible climatic effects of rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon. Indeed, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 25 percent, from 328 parts per million in April 1970 to 412 parts per million today. Since the first Earth Day, the globe's average temperature has increased by about 1 degree Celsius, and recent research suggests that the world is on track to increase by another 2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.

De Bell responded to climate change by recommending energy austerity, while Maddox argued that the same human ingenuity that was solving other air pollution problems could be brought to bear on greenhouse warming. Given how thoroughly economic growth and sci-tech prowess have falsified the Catastrophists' other forecasts, it's not implausible that those same forces will let us surmount the problems posed by climate change too.

The Sense of an Ending

In his 1967 book The Sense of an Ending, the literary critic Frank Kermode argued that human beings try to give significance to our short lives in the long sweep of history by placing ourselves in the middle of a narrative arc. That arc typically traces civilization's fall from a golden age through a current stage of decadence to an impending apocalypse—one that may, through the bold efforts of the current generation, usher in a new age.

"The great majority of interpretations of Apocalypse assume that the End is pretty near," observed Kermode. But since the end never arrives, "the historical allegory is always having to be revised….And this is important. Apocalypse can be disconfirmed without being discredited. This is part of its extraordinary resilience."

The dire prophecies of the first Earth Day have been mostly proven wrong, but the prophets of an always-impending environmental apocalypse have not thereby been discredited. Auguries of imminent catastrophe remain resilient, even as the world of 2020 is in a much happier state than the Catastrophists of 1970 ever expected.

NEXT: Automated License Plate Readers, the Mosaic Theory, and the Fourth Amendment

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  1. I also remember ice ball earth on the font of Time. It seems much of the improvements were because of the free market. Oil is ‘too’ plentiful , there’s plenty of food, minerals ect. Birth rates have when down do to wealth creation.. And now, with all this progress the TOP MEN and WOMEN are trying to push us into another depression.

    1. Remember! Having children is a terrible thing because it greatly increases your carbon footprint. Also, we need more people to support the welfare system so open the borders of Europe and the United States to Africa and Latin America, respectively. I’m surprised environmentalist don’t bring up the fact that moving from a low carbon footprint country to a high carbon footprint country allows a person’s carbon footprint to rise too.

    2. “It seems much of the improvements were because of the free market. Oil ”

      There is no free market in oil. Just the past week Trump, the Crown Prince of KSA and Putin were conniving to fix production quotas for oil. It’s about as far from a free market as you can get.

      1. Since all significant reserves are owned or controlled by a small number of governments oil it should be one of the easiest commodities to restrict via cartels. And yet time and time again market forces have defeated these cartels. It’s the market that makes the pressure on individual countries to cheat irresistible. Since Putin is at war with the West and SA and Iran are at war with each other, nothing will change. They may temporarily agree to restrict production, but because demand has fallen off the table that won’t improve prices much. And Russia is simply genetically incapable of resisting the urge to cheat. At anything.

        1. I’m not sure what you mean by cheating. Are the Russians selling ‘oil’ and cutting it with water as unscrupulous smack dealers do with baby powder? Or is participating in a cartel and conniviving with the likes of Trump and his favorite prince to fix prices what you had in mind?

  2. The jury came back: The Catastrophists were wrong. Very wrong.

    You know, some of the ideas the Catastrophists are pushing have merit. The problem is they want to use the heavy hand of government to do it, and the solutions they propose are positively draconian.

    To me, AOC is the archetype of Catastrophists. Mindless power-grabber.

    1. But she’s a strong independent woman with an award from MIT!

      1. So? Her MIT award is worth about as much as her degrees (yes, plural) from Boston College/University. Exactly nothing.

    2. “ou know, some of the ideas the Catastrophists are pushing have merit.”

      Cleaner air and water is an idea that has merit and it seems that this was accomplished due to government regulations, draconian ones, as you point out.

  3. Earth Day: Think Ira Einhorn.

    1. You mean the CIA wasn’t behind Holly Maddux’s murder?

      Einhorn lived a life of luxury in Europe for over 20 years before being extradited and jailed. But he’s dead now, so fuck him.

    2. And Arlen Specter was Einhorn’s lawyer.

    3. Bingo…why was he allowed to live the life of a celebrated intellectual in Europe for 20 years? Epstein you have to wonder. Ron somehow forget this piece of sht the cultural marxist and murderer he was…the man who started Earth Day..a rapist and murderer and because of his connections/ethnicity escaped justice for 20 years…

  4. They were lying then, they are lying now. All they want is total power over the earth. Never vote for a democrat.
    (and, oh by the way, we ARE wearing masks)

    1. Far-left climate extremist Greta Thunberg unloaded on the world in an op-ed published awhile back, claiming that fossil fuels “are literally” killing mankind, and that they are a threat to “our very existence” as she said that her “climate crisis” agenda is not just about the environment, but about fighting the “colonial, racist, and patriarchal systems of oppression.”

      For several years now, the climate alarmists have at least been more and more honest about their goals, and they have little to do with environmentalism or reversing climate change.

      For many, it’s about a new world order based on economic justice (aka: socialism), perhaps with some other SJW buzzwords:

      (OTTMAR EDENHOFER, UN IPCC OFFICIAL): Basically it’s a big mistake to discuss climate policy separately from the major themes of globalization. The climate summit in Cancun at the end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the largest economic conferences since the Second World War… First of all, developed countries have basically expropriated the atmosphere of the world community. But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole.

      Christiana Figueres, leader of the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change: “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model, for the first time in human history.”

      Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti The Green New Deal “wasn’t originally a climate thing at all … we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”

      Emma Brindal, a climate justice campaigner coordinator for Friends of the Earth: “A climate change response must have at its heart a redistribution of wealth and resources.”

      Daphne Muller, green-progressive-liberal writer for Salon: “This moment requires we the people to rethink democracy as a global mechanism for enacting policy for and by the planet.”

      Gus Hall, former leader of the Communist Party USA: “Human society cannot basically stop the destruction of the environment under capitalism. Socialism is the only structure that makes it possible.”

      David Brower, a founder of the Sierra Club: “The goal now is a socialist, redistributionist society, which is nature’s proper steward and society’s only hope.”

      For some others, it’s about the money or power, and they’ll use the “science”, real or imagined, to that end (but still tossing in a few SWJ buzzwords):

      Monika Kopacz, atmospheric scientist: “It is no secret that a lot of climate-change research is subject to opinion, that climate models sometimes disagree even on the signs of the future changes (e.g. drier vs. wetter future climate). The problem is, only sensational exaggeration makes the kind of story that will get politicians’ — and readers’ — attention. So, yes, climate scientists might exaggerate, but in today’s world, this is the only way to assure any political action and thus more federal financing to reduce the scientific uncertainty.”

      Former U.S. Senator Timothy Wirth (D-CO), then representing the Clinton-Gore administration as U.S undersecretary of state for global issues, addressing the same Rio Climate Summit audience, agreed: “We have got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.”

      Christine Stewart, former Canadian Environment Minister: “No matter if the science is all phoney, there are collateral environmental benefits…. climate change [provides] the greatest chance to bring about justice and equality in the world.”

      Researcher Robert Phalen’s 2010 testimony to the California Air Resources Board: “It benefits us personally to have the public be afraid, even if these risks are trivial.”

      1. Someone needs to regulate Greta’s use of carbohydrates imo

  5. the world of 2020 is in a much happier state than the Catastrophists of 1970 ever expected.

    Choose your model, choose your mood.

  6. R.I.P., climate change models

    1. Climate change models are very much alive. It’s difficult to imagine scientific prediction of climate without modelling.

      1. It’s difficult to imagine scientific prediction of predict the future of the climate without modelling.

    2. Now they’re predicting COVID-19 deaths.

  7. Well we may have actually hit peak oil. In that there’s so much we might be filling up pools to store it.

    1. I think the libertarian solution is to temporarily store the excess oil in the lakes and ponds around Cushing, OK.

  8. Also, never ever forget that vicious cold-blooded murderer Ira Einhorn was one of the organizers and keynote speakers behind this event.

  9. the world of 2020 is in a much happier state than the Catastrophists of 1970 ever expected.

    Well, it WAS until a few weeks ago anyway.

  10. Never bet on the end of the world. If you are wrong you will lose a lot of money and look as foolish as the doom and gloom predictions mentioned. If you are right, it just doesn’t matter.

    1. Everyone wants to live in the End Times. That makes their times, and thus them, important. The idea that humanity muddled through without you for millennia before you got here and will muddle through without you after you’re gone makes you too meaningless.

      1. “Everyone wants to live in the End Times.”

        Isn’t that a Christian fetish? Also Christianity’s desert cousins? Buddhism, Hinduism and animistic traditions are about continuity and cycles. Most secularists live for the sake of their children and grandchildren. That’s what gives life meaning.

  11. I can count on the reason Commenters to be clingers that absolutly want to destroy the world

    1. Clingers? Is that an insult?

      And one cannot but agree with the destroyers part. That guy beside you on the parkway, in traffic (in the good old days), in the Chevy Tahoe with the Save the Whales sticker, life long Democrat and all, he is the destroyer. I am not. I have never voted Democrat.

  12. Many of its contributors—let’s call them the Catastrophists—warned that even such drastic actions as halving the number of human beings and stopping economic growth completely might not be enough to prevent the imminent ecological cataclysm.

    Looks like they may have finally gotten their wish, at least on the second part (stopping economic growth).

    Thanks, COVID-19! /sarc

  13. Yes, climate change is real. It’s my theory that the “right” generally doesn’t believe in climate change because of the Catastrophists. There’s only so many times one can predict complete climate collapse within the decade unless we give more power to government before people just stop listening.

    1. ” It’s my theory that the “right” generally doesn’t believe in climate change because of the Catastrophists.”

      The right is conservative, by definition resistant to change. The right believe they are entitled to a certain standard of living and are threatened by any changes to that, paradoxically even belt tightening and conservation.

      Catastrophists only people. It’s difficult to believe that the right would adopt a position just to spite them.

    2. Many on the right believe in climate change but do not believe the claimed cause and even if the claimed cause is the cause its not a bad thing and the world may even be better off for it.
      this is also my take on it

    3. Yes, climate change is real.

      There’s also a very good chance that it’s completely, utterly irrelevant.

      Where does the economic impact come from? What part of a world average daily temperature of 16.5°C rather than 15.2°C, generates any consequences whatsoever?

      I have some background in numerical modelling – specifically in the context of large-scale, multi-sector, multi-region dynamic economic models. Find me a leftist who isn’t totally hostile to economic models: economic modellers are the people who tell the Left that their infatuations can’t be got for free.

      A whole chapter of my PhD thesis was about the importance of what is now called ‘UQ’ – uncertainty quantification (I called it ‘systematic sensitivity analysis’).

      This is because the lack of bijectivity – even of linear models – means that model cannot be relied upon the be mean- (or mode-) preserving: if you give it the ‘most likely’ values of the input variables and parameters, it will not generally generate the most likely vector in the (joint) distribution of the output variables.

      So ‘point’ forecasts (where the input/parameter matrices are a single point in a hypercube) have no statistical interpretability; you have to bootstrap the distribution of the output variables by simulation.

      Nobody does that – even when the model in question is a simple one.

      I was staggered while reading the ICL paper on covid19, that they didn’t have any serious attempt at UQ. The SEIR model has 4 parameters, so it’s trivial to get some estimate of their joint distribution, and run a million simulations, each using a ‘draw’ from the parameter space with an associated probability. That way you get a manifold for infections/deaths etc.

      Contrast that with my PhD model, which took a day to solve (in 1997) and I needed to do 100,000 simulations (which would be less than 10% complete today). Eventually I jerry-rigged a multivariate Gaussian quadrature, which approximated the task.

      Once you start scratching that scab tho: it becomes clear that you can get a complex model to do whatever you want, by judiciously selecting parameters and paths for input variables – without making statistically-different changes to the parameter set as a whole. This means that a given model can literally give any result you want.

      That’s when I decided I couldn’t be a ‘think tank’ economic modeller – which is a key reason I took an offer from a startup rather than submit my dissertation.

      Climate modellers know how to do this, which is why they can get whatever result is required for the press release.

      And yet they still diligently report dishonest ‘forecast intervals’ in out-years. They show the interval at year 100 (say), as if it’s calculated given no uncertainty for year 99. However year 99 is an uncertain quantity – so is year 98, 97 etc. The forecast bounds on year T – calculated AT YEAR ZERO – are O(T²) wider than the bounds on the forecast for year 1.

      1. Nice post. I spent some time modeling nuclear fusion decades ago and once you get into the nonlinear world it usually becomes more trial and error in you model..problem with climate is you can’t test in controlled conditions so the models time line for measurement are years or decades

  14. What?!?!?

    No shout out to Julian Simon?

    1. This story is about the losers.

  15. Was anyone back in 1970 predicting that in 50 years the world would be producing more food than ever before and there would be more malnutrition than ever before? Is that a catastrophist or a promethitist? Such a prediction seems counter to both positions yet would have turned out to be closer to the truth than either.

    1. Do you ever do anything but blather?

    2. There is not “more malnutrition than ever before”.

      There is an interesting trend in malnutrition that is other-than-based on a lack of calories. But that’s not been at all attributable to market failures. A lot of that malnutrition is being laid at the feet of the government regulators who keep issuing nutritional guidance that turns out to be not just wrong but actively harmful.

      1. Well, that, and maybe that foodstamps/EBT cards can buy a lot of junk food, and in some places even fast-food (like McDonalds). Obesity and poverty tend to go quite hand-in-hand in the US.

      2. Those who measure such things tell us that about a billion people suffer from malnutrition. That is probably close to the highest number it’s ever been. Erlich predicted mass deaths but due to food shortages. Clearly he was on the wrong track as i’ve noted food production has increased since then and has never been higher.

        Did anyone predict high malnution and high food production? They would have been the ones who got it right.

        1. Malnutrition in India seems to be responsible for the greatest growth world wide since 50 years ago, especially among children. At the same time the country has been praised as the poster child of neo liberalism, scrapping government regulations and budget cutting.

    3. You and I debated this subject here before, and when I challenged your incorrect assertion that global malnutrition has grown, you moved the goalposts to India, the one significant nation bucking the worldwide trend of decreasing hunger and malnutrition. After that little detour, I again asked you about the _global_ situation, and you gave a trite response which was essentially a dodge.

      You’re capable of better.

  16. The dire prophecies of the first Earth Day have been mostly proven wrong, but the prophets of an always-impending environmental apocalypse have not thereby been discredited. Auguries of imminent catastrophe remain resilient, even as the world of 2020 is in a much happier state than the Catastrophists of 1970 ever expected.

    This is called assuming the conclusion and you know it Ron. Cmon. At the time of that Earth Day; the only things that had actually happened were the Santa Barbara oil spill, highway protests in the late 60’s against the ‘Robert Moses’ model of bulldozing neighborhoods in favor of highways, the Cuyahoga River fire, the hippies dropping out and moving to communes, the NEPA (which required federal agencies to produce environmental impact statements for their own activities), and Coase’s (Problem of Social Cost) and Hardin’s (Tragedy of Commons) articles.

    None of that points to a market on the verge of solving a problem. If the problems since then HAVE been ‘solved’, they’ve been solved by post-Earth Day institutions and practices. And you can’t simply ignore them as if the models/scenarios themselves created the changes that occurred.

    Models/scenarios are NOT Nostradamus. Rather they are simply a tool used to guide decisions about institutions/policies (of whatever type public or private centralized or distributed) and it is those institutions/policies that create the changes.

    1. Stuff your PANIC!!! flag up your ass, stick first, sit on it and spin.

    2. The Cuyahoga River regularly caught fire for decades before the one that finally made the news. Most other rivers in cities around the world did the same. The Cuyahoga River only made the news because the environment was already being cleaned up to the point that the new fire was unusual.

      1. The river was not being ‘cleaned up’. Nor was Lake Erie. What that particular fire proved was that any efforts to clean anything up couldn’t occur locally in many places – and not at the state level in others. In Ohio, all of that permitting occurred at the state level. Munis were explicitly prohibited from doing anything about that – and federal courts have always adhered to Dillons Rule (the legal notion that munis do not have any independent authority apart from what a state legislature grants) not the Cooley Doctrine (the notion that munis derive their authority from their residents/citizens – aka ‘home rule’). In Cleveland’s case, the locals did want to clean it up – and even funded a $100 million bond issue to do that before the fire. But the governor had no interest in that at all (and had his own way of dealing with ‘protest’ – 50 year anniversary of Kent St is coming up too).

        Santa Barbara oil spill was exactly the same sort of conflict between local v state v federal. That sort of jurisdictional conflict doesn’t just ‘go away’.

        There are many ways this could have been addressed. But there is a century long practice where the big jurisdiction shop – and our Constitution simply doesn’t recognize anything below the state-level. And the Lake Erie issues are obviously traditional inter-state.

  17. So, fifty years of wrongheaded bloviation and wasteful impositions. Foo.

    I don’t deny that there are genuine environmental concerns with how humans treat the world around them. I just haven’t ever seen a proposal out the the ‘Green’ movement that would actually HELP.

  18. I based my life on the Cat theories and they failed me, just like every other religion. So because I believed them and consumed vast quantities of mind altering substances, worked all my life at 7/11 so that my consumption habits wouldn’t be compromised, I was lied to. Where is the re-start button? Can I get a cold boot and try something else?

  19. “Maddox fully acknowledged that pollution was harming people and the natural world. Cutting air pollution in the U.S. by 50 percent, he said, would increase life expectancy by three to five years. But he did not think pollution threatened the very existence of the human race… he pointed out, average levels of smokiness had already declined by 20 percent from 1957 to 1970; sulfur dioxide had fallen by a third from 1962 to 1969.”

    Rebutting catastrophists of Ehrlich and Club of Rome caliber was more than a two-pipe problem. It took two packs a day to propel the author of The Doomsday Syndrome through 25 years as Nature Editor, and on to become Sir John Maddox FRS, who alas expired just 39 years and 550,000 cigarettes after Earth Day.

    Let us hope the castastrophists that still haunt the smoke free corridors of the UN and the Europarliament never discover Player’s Navy Cut.

  20. “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”

    ― H.L. Mencken, In Defense Of Women

    Environmentalism has morphed from a desire to live in cleaner, more pleasant surroundings, to a plan to control and eliminate all the deplorable people who do not agree with the politicians in charge.

  21. I remember being in 3rd grade for the first one of these bolshevik “woke” teacher explained the world was on the brink due to American greed. She had us sing “This land…” trying to turn us into good little instruments of the State. And yes Ira Enhorn the Jewish 60’s Radical who helped start this scam….killed his girlfriend and stuffed her into a suitcase…this is the man we worship on this day. Sort of like economics who bend the knee to Keynes a known pedo. Who you worship says a lot about yourself.

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