April 22 marks the 47th anniversary of Earth Day!

The eco-holiday was inaugurated in 1970, and the organizers chose the third week in April because it was conveniently between the booze-filled festivities of Spring Break and the caffeine-fueled horror of final exams. Inspired by the anti-war movement, Earth Day was suppose to be an annual “teach in” about environmental protection.

Here are some of the doom-filled climate predictions that long-ago era.

(I thought a trip with Peabody and Sherman in the Way Back Machine might be a fun way to celebrate!)

Mark Perry of American Enterprise Institute featured these gems from 1970:

  • Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”  (We are still going strong 47 years later, though the appearance of man buns is now a cause for concern.)
  • Paul Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the 1970 Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.” (Current human population = 7.5 Billion<).
  • Peter Gunter, a North Texas State University professor, wrote in 1970, “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.” (Currently, the only regions at risk for famine are the Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen.…for reasons that have us much to do with civil unrest as much as climate.)

In fact, those famine predictions were the basis of one of my favorite movies:

The Federalist contributor Robert Tracinski offers this 1970’s vintage climate alarmist-memory: Man-caused global cooling!

We were causing the ice age and bringing the glaciers down on our own heads. Deforestation was going to increase the reflectivity of the Earth’s surface, causing light from the sun to bounce back into space without heating the Earth. Meanwhile, emissions of “particulates,” i.e., smoke from industrial smokestacks, was going to block out the light before it even got here. No, really: Life Magazine in 1970 reported that “by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.”

As I noted in my post on California’s air pollution levels, great strides have been made in technology so that the level of atmospheric contaminates has been reduced. And a little more than a decade later, the planet was in the midst of the Global Warming scare!

Ronald Baily of Reason noted that in 1970, the planet was poised to run out of critical resources because of greedy mankind.

“We are prospecting for the very last of our resources and using up the nonrenewable things many times faster than we are finding new ones,” warned Sierra Club director Martin Litton in Time’s February 2, 1970, special “environmental report.” Ecologist Kenneth Watt declared, “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.'”

Fracking and horizontal drilling have opened up vast new petroleum options, and new technologies has reduced the long-term environmental impacts in oil drilling and processing operations.

A trip through the Way Back Machine shows that an episode of Peabody and Sherman’s history was far more probable as history than what was projected by the smart-set in 1970 to be the history that we were suppose to experience.

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