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This Week with The Chicowitz:

Earth Day Falderal

Last week: “Boomer Retirement: Part 2 – What Will We Do?

I remember very well the first Earth Day. It was April 22, 1970. I had already done my research. Two years earlier I had read Dr. Paul Ehrlich’s book, “The Population Bomb,” in which he predicted that between 1980 and 1989, four billion people, including 65 million Americans, would starve to death. I immediately ran to the store and bought 100 bags of potato chips. Danged if I was going to be one of them! I had a subscription to Life Magazine. In January 1970, Life reported another of Dr. Ehrlich’s predictions: “By 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.” In response, I hurried to the drug store and bought 100 size-D batteries.

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I gotta’ tell you, I’m all bummed out about Earth Day. I’ve tried hard to be a good tenant of this precious earth. I’ve tried to keep the spirit of Earth Day. But reality keeps slapping me in the face.

The concept of Earth Day had been bubbling up for many years while I was a child. In the mid-1960s Congress passed the Wilderness Act, and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas asked, “Who speaks for the trees?” My answer was, “Why, Katherine Hepburn, of course.”

I remember very well the first Earth Day. It was April 22, 1970. I had already done my research. Two years earlier I had read Dr. Paul Ehrlich’s book, “The Population Bomb,” in which he predicted that between 1980 and 1989, four billion people, including 65 million Americans, would starve to death.

I immediately ran to the store and bought 100 bags of potato chips. Danged if I was going to be one of them!

I had a subscription to Life Magazine. In January 1970, Life reported another of Dr. Ehrlich’s predictions:

By 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.

In response, I hurried to the drug store and bought 100 size-D batteries.

Size D Batteries

Dr. S. Dillon Ripley was the secretary of the Smithsonian Institute. In Look magazine, April, 1970, Dr. Ripley wrote:

By 1995, between 75 and 85 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.

“And that’s why you never see any unicorns, to this very day.” — Irish Rovers

      You’ll see green alligators and long-necked geese,
      Some humpty-backed camels and some chimpanzees,
      Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born,
      You’re never gonna’ see no unicorn.

Here; sing along:   The Unicorn Song

Peter Gunter, a professor at North Texas State University, stated:

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.

I made a mental note: no travel to India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa, South and Central America... or anywhere in New Jersey, just to play it safe.



On April 19, three days before the first Earth Day, George Wald, a biologist working at Harvard University, wrote:

Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.

What was he suggesting, mass suicide? Jim Jones must have been taking notes.

On the evening before the first Earth Day, one of my friends from high school, a “skull full of mush” freshman at Swarthmore College, called me in a state of panic right after she had heard a lecture given by ecologist Kenneth Watt (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 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.

http://www.swarthmore.edu/news-and-events/swarthmore-in-the-news/in-the-news-archives/swarthmore-in-the-news-2010/april-23-2010.xml

She ran out and bought half a dozen wool coats... and 14 barrels of oil. (Don’t ask me how she got those into her Volkswagen Beetle.)

To top it off, on April 19, Denis Hayes, the chief organizer for Earth Day, wrote:

It is already too late to avoid mass starvation.

“Too late”? Too late???? Calling Dr. Jack! I raced out of my apartment and bought 100 more bags of potato chips.

I was a student in the belly of the beast, American University, in Washington, D.C. I was no longer an impressionable “skull full of mush,” but I was eager to be a responsible citizen. I wanted to make the earth a better place in which to live. On that first Earth Day, I pedalled my bicycle six miles to the Washington Monument to hear Senator Gaylord Nelson, the “father” of Earth Day, speak. What I got was a terrible protest song by Phil Ochs, who had flown in on a private jet, and a putrid speech by Rennie Davis, one of the infamous Chicago 7. What either of them had to do with Earth Day remains a mystery to me. On the way back, I ran over a broken beer bottle, got a flat tire, and had to walk my crippled bike four miles back to campus.

I remember saying over and over again, “Cram it, Earth day; just cram it!”

So, Here We Are

So, here we are, nearly a half-century later. And what should we have learned? Pretty obvious, isn’t it? So you can understand why I am bummed out, huh?

But that’s not all.

Ever since I stepped on the accelerator of my first car (a 1967 Opel Kadette), I have been conscious about the energy I consume. I have always driven small, efficient cars. A gallon saved is a gallon saved. But I heard last week that President Change-we-can-believe-in Obama spewed out over 9,000 of gasoline to fly to Iowa to give a speech on Earth Day. He’s got a souped-up Blackberry; has he never heard of tele-conferencing? Crap; he used more gasoline in one day that I did in the first 20 years I drove a car! What’s the use?

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Yet still, I persevere.

Despite the phony predictions and scare tactics of the past, on this Earth Day, I decided to ride my bike to the local Home Depot for my day’s supply of home repair stuff. It’s less than a mile away; surely I can handle that. What could go wrong?

Strange you should ask. Before I got down the driveway, I got a flat tire. I had to drive my car to the closest hardware store (four miles, each way — too far to walk) for supplies to fix the flat. Patch or new inner tube? Which would be better for Mother Earth? Well, patch, of course. Conserve resources; waste not. Do your part.

So, patch it was.

I drove home and patched the dang inner tube... four times. Not a one of them held. Had to drive back to the hardware store — four miles, each way — and buy a new inner tube.

So I ended up driving 16 miles so that I could ride my bike less than a mile to help save Mother Earth. Meanwhile, the leader of the country was blowing 9,000 gallons of fuel out the tailpipe of a 747 to deliver another campaign speech!

And there’s still more. See the list of predictions made about the time of the first Earth Day here.

Next time, Mother Earth, save your damn self! I got a life here to live.

Bummer!

The truth is that there’s much to celebrate this Earth Day. One reason to rejoice is that the doomsters have been wrong for 40 years, and they will likely be wrong again.

      — Laura E. Huggins

Earth Day Pronouncements They Want You to Forget

“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.” – Harvard biologist George Wald

“We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.” – Washington University biologist Barry Commoner

“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

“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.” – Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich

“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.” – Paul Ehrlich

“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.” – North Texas State University professor Peter Gunter

“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

“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.” – Ecologist Kenneth Watt

“Air pollution...is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.” – Paul Ehrlich

“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.’” – Ecologist Kenneth Watt

“[One] 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.” – Newsweek magazine

“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

Quotes from ”Earth Day, Then and Now,” by Ronald Bailey, Reason.com. May 1, 2000. — http://reason.com/archives/2000/05/01/earth-day-then-and-now/print

The Real Success Story

Surely we and our ancestors did make a literal mess out of some of our landscape. We threw trash on the highway and dumped crud directly into our waters. Yep; right where I grew up (Cleveland, Ohio), companies dumped industrial waste into the Cuyahoga River, which famously caught fire... more than once.

The doomsday prophets said that the river was irrecoverbly destroyed. Done. Finished. Cannot be saved. Hold your nose and kiss it goodbye.

Once again, they were wrong.

Our collective moral sense of outrage finally stood up to this, and not only stopped the dumping, but also created and employed technology to clean it up.

The freak-out scaremongers said that the oil spill in the gulf in 2010 would cause damage lasting for decades. DECADES! Though the damage was severe, five years later, the coast was clear, and the marine and wildlife recovered.

Our land, our water, and our air is so much cleaner now than it was when we were kids. We are doing the right things to keep it that way.

And that’s the truth!


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