Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Ecological Eschaton Is Imminent

It's an odd thing that no one, not even liberal environmentalists, seem too concerned about the imminent arrival of January 27th. That's the day in 2006 when Al Gore warned us that the world had ten years to severely reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses or else we will have passed the point of no return when nothing we do to save the planet will matter.

Well, January 27th is soon upon us, but there seems to be no alarm, no urgency, no real concern. What's wrong with people? Do they think the Nobel prize winning author of An Inconvenient Truth was prevaricating, for heaven's sake?

Maybe people have just grown weary of apocalyptic predictions. In 1988 Ted Danson, who played Sam Malone on the sitcom Cheers, switched roles and played a marine biologist cautioning us that we had only ten years to save the oceans. Since the middle of the last century we've been told by all sorts of folks that peak oil was just around the corner and that by the year 2000 we'd have exhausted the world's supply. In 1968 a Stanford biologist named Paul Ehrlich terrified us with the assurance - in his book The Population Bomb - that by the mid-1980s the world would be awash with mass starvation, war, disease, and chaos. A piece in the New York Times quotes him:
Dr. Ehrlich’s opening statement [of the book] was the verbal equivalent of a punch to the gut: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over.” He later went on to forecast that hundreds of millions would starve to death in the 1970s, that 65 million of them would be Americans, that crowded India was essentially doomed, that odds were fair “England will not exist in the year 2000.” Dr. Ehrlich was so sure of himself that he warned in 1970 that “sometime in the next 15 years, the end will come.” By “the end,” he meant “an utter breakdown of the capacity of the planet to support humanity.”
It's true, as Yogi Berra is alleged to have claimed, that predictions are very hard to make, especially when they're about the future, but even so none of those dire prophecies has come to pass and evidently no one, not even Gore's biggest fans, think his prognostication is going to be proven correct either. But then we still have a couple of weeks left, so who knows?