Tomorrow is Earth Day. People often make false, apocalyptic predictions on Earth Day, and have been doing so for the 52 years since the first Earth Day in 1970. Economics professor Mark Perry lists some of the false predictions made around the time of the first Earth Day:
1. “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” Paul Ehrlich declared in Mademoiselle. “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years [by 1980].”
2. “Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born,” wrote Paul Ehrlich in an essay titled “Eco-Catastrophe! “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.”
3. 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.”
4. “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” said Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day, in the Spring 1970 issue of The Living Wilderness.
5. Peter Gunter, a North Texas State University professor, declared in 1970 that “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.”
6. In 1970, Life reported, “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….”
7. Ecologist Kenneth Watt claimed that “By the year 2000 if present trends continue … 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.’”
8. Harrison Brown, a scientist at the National Academy of Sciences, published a chart in Scientific American that looked at metal reserves and estimated that humanity would totally run out of copper shortly after 2000. Lead, zinc, tin, gold, and silver would be gone before 1990.