The first Earth Day in 1970 came to pass with a plethora of statements from the usual alarmist suspects (e.g., Paul Ehrlich, Dennis Hayes, U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, et al) that, in hindsight, should make any sane person laugh out loud. The fact making these a lot less funny is that similarly outrageous statements are being made today by the likes of Al Gore & Co. A sampling of the 1970 stuff appears at the end of this commentary.
The fatal fault underlying much said by these disciples of Thomas Malthus is their apparent ignorance of history. Thus, they are oblivious to the wisdom in a metaphor coined, I think, by Sir Isaac Newton, circa 1675, while writing to another giant of science of his day, Robert Hooke: “If I have seen further (than you and Descartes) it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”
The Malthusian conceit leading to such as 1972’s The Limits to Growth is that human progress cannot continue beyond the present so behavior must now be strictly controlled to avoid the disasters conjured up in the Malthusians’ vivid imaginations. One might put it, “We midgets cannot contribute to growth of the giant on whose shoulders we stand (all accumulated human knowledge), so we must retreat.”
A contemporary example I like to cite is the story of natural gas supply today vis–à–vis 1978, when Congress enacted, and Pres. Carter signed, the National Energy Act. That act comprised the Powerplant and Industrial Fuel Use Act and four other acts. The fuel use act commanded a rapid switch to coal, considered necessary mostly on account of imminent depletion of natural gas availability to zero (as well as the need—surprise, surprise—to reduce oil imports!). We now have a glut of natural gas on account of drilling and fracturing techniques undreamt of by the 1978 crowd.
This Malthusian scarcity stuff is manna for the socialist one–world government types. “Sustainability” is their code word of choice. A fairly extensive discussion of that appears here on my website.
Colorado’s flagship public university at Boulder, like hundreds of other institutions of purportedly higher learnng all over the country, is all in to “sustainability.” But don’t ask for a working definition. I have, and the Chancellor’s office either cannot, or is afraid to, provide it.
“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
“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 …  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.” • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist
“It is already too late to avoid mass starvation.” • Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day
“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.” • Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University
“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 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
“Air pollution … is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.” • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist “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 the species of living animals will be extinct.” • Sen. Gaylord Nelson
“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.” • Kenneth Watt, Ecologist