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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Earth Day Then and Now

Yesterday was Earth Day. Earth Day was started in 1970 with various rallies against pollution and population growth.

There were many dire predictions put out at that time, some resulted in dramatic changes. Lake Erie is the prime example. At that time, the lake was dying, the pollution was so bad. Over time and as a result of some laws and a lot of clean-up, Lake Erie is again thriving.

There were other predictions, I'll let you be the judge about them. Some experts predicted that food shortages would raise the level of world hunger and starvation to unbelievable proportions. Yes, there is world hunger and starvation, but most of it is the result of corrupt governments.

Pollution was considered to be a such big danger in 1970 that within a short time citizens would be forced to wear gas masks in order to breathe and life expectancy in the US would be reduced to 48. Various clean air acts were passed and that never happened.

There have been a lot of positive changes since that first Earth Day, but there have also been some failures.

I don't know whether or not this would be considered a failure, but it is a double-edged sword. DDT had been implicated in the decimation of several bird species due to egg-shell thinning and several human cancers including breast cancer. DDT was banned by 1972. DDT was originally used successfully to reduce deaths from malaria. However, since it was banned, there was a resurgence of malaria-carrying mosquitos worldwide. It has been estimated that there are between 600 and 900 million cases of malaria a year and that about 2.7 million people die of it annually. It's too bad that it can't be used only in the areas where malaria is prevalent. Maybe some lives could be saved.

But then, that would lead to an increase in world population, and maybe to the famines they were predicting in 1970 and reduction in natural resources and increase in air pollution.

Newsweek magazine in January 1970 did something unheard of now. They actually printed two sides of the same story. One story predicted that the world is threatened with a rise in average temperature which if it reached 4 or 5 degrees could melt the polar ice caps and raise sea level by as much as 300 feet and cause worldwide flooding. The magazine also noted that several scientists saw temperatures dropping. If the trend continued from the previous 20 years, the world would be about 11 degrees colder by the end of the century. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.

Maybe the latter scientists were right. Maybe we're not undergoing global warming, but the normal end of the ice age that was predicted in 1970. It's something to think about.

Yes, most of those predictions were wrong, either because the experts guessed incorrectly or because we took control and cleaned the air, rivers and lakes. We're wasting less, recycling more.


ms/sss said...

Your interesting blog hits on so many topics...Where to begin to comment? The young people, who will one day lead our nation, have their work mapped out for them! They will do well, I am confident, for while often we hear about all the losers in society, we all know those young people who rise above the ordinary and quietly become the strength the world needs. Ciao and God bless to them!

threecollie said...

I read an interesting statistic garnered from EPA files, that the air is 91% cleaner today than in 1980
I thought that was really amazing.