Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day

Forty-three years ago, on April 19, the Sunday before the first Earth Day, Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson, one of the originators of the observance, had this to say on Face the Nation:  
The country can't survive with constant growth. We have demonstrated our lack of will or capacity or both to stem the tide of deterioration of the environment with 200 million people. When we get to 300 million people, it will be a disaster. You can't have constant consumer growth of the kind that we have seen. The fact of the matter is, in a hundred years we will run out of all the major--practically all of the major resources upon which a highly sophisticated technological society now depends. So I think we have to revise our attitudes and our philosophy and modify the works of our institutions in order to preserve the environment that is liveable. . . . You cannot, we cannot continue to intrude upon the works of nature, destroying living creatures all over the world, without us being in the line some place. . . .
At the moment this post was published, the population of the United States was 315,721,911.


  1. Amusing prediction from Sen. Nelson. Goes to show how hard it is to predict the future; with all our troubles, we're still functioning in America with 315 million people. Haven't run out of everything yet.

    One should also note that the two big issues of the original Earth Day were:

    1. Global Cooling (remember the "Here Comes the New Ice Age" cover story on -- what was that magazine called? -- Newsweek).

    2. Litter

    Happy Earth Day.

    -- Jock Spivy

    1. I still believe Newsweek had it right (admittedly rare for them)!

      Last week I watched as a full plastic bag of kitchen garbage was ejected from a car window onto Partition Street.

      The plethora of stray cats made fast work of the old meats (mostly hotdogs), which at least improved the immediate chances of their usual prey, the passerines who congregate at the nearby bird feeder.

      On the bright side, any local will tell you that we're on a much cleaner Hudson River than in the days of yore.

      Ya know, it's a great day to go out and plant something!

    2. Jock, your comment reminds me of the joke about the fellow falling from the 100th floor of a building who says to himself as he passes each floor: "OK so far". No we haven't "run out of everything" yet, but that's not a useful measure of our situation.
      As for the Newsweek article whose author misinterpreted a scientific report and whose editor saw an opportunity to juice up an otherwise slow "news-week" we can only recommend people who use the popular press for their science education broaden their reading list.

    3. We've been told for decades that we're about to starve to death and run out of oil, to name just two failed promises.

      It would be funny that so many predictions of our doom have been so wrong, except that expensive and wasteful public policies continue to be implemented on the basis of silly assertions and unwillingness to embrace new ideas and technologies.

      What scientific credentials did Senator Nelson have in making his big predictions (not a rhetorical question -- was he a scientist)? Did he have more training than the science editor of Newsweek?

      Does anyone besides me think that the death of Newsweek (and the business failure of companies like the Washington Post newspaper and the New York Times Company, which has lost 85% of its market cap in the last 10 years) could be connected to the long ride down the propaganda path, at the expense of the solid journalistic path? One thing that Sen. Nelson probably would never have predicted is that in 2013 we would have plenty of natural gas but no Newsweek!

      -- Jock Spivy

    4. For what it's worth Jock, I agree with your estimation.

      The New Left committed the fourth estate to an inevitable decline of older journalistic standards. This may prove ultimately more suicidal to Western Civilization than the inevitable environmental doom we've awaited in vain for decades.

      Not that the latter can't happen too, but how many times will the goal posts have to be moved before such predictions look like they have any traction? (e.g., anthropogenic warming, etc.)

      In the meantime, an entire industry called 'journalism' is kept on life support by the perpetually dreadful alarmism that substitutes for culture. This has the tendency to remove the middle ground of compromise when looking for solutions to our very real environmental ills.

      (Example: when the Bald Eagle was slated to be removed from federal Endangered Species listing, the greatest challenge to the supporters of the move - ornithologists and policy makers alike - was the organized protest of the people for whom the de-listing just seemed instinctually wrong. There was no reasoning with them, and no way to show them that the legislation had been a success.)

      In the long run, a strong and stable compromise is worth more than victory-by-fanaticism. The latter tends to unravel pretty quickly only to rediscover, miracle of miracles, an even greater need and boost for the kind of self-promoting, self-righteous cant that nowadays passes for "journalism." Much of it strikes me as sheer hypocrisy.

      (Is that the sort of agreement you had in mind?)

    5. Thanks, unheimlich. Yes, that's the sort of agreement I had in mind.

      -- Jock Spivy

  2. Our "Litter"...great and small.
    Une plan├Ęte, une chance