Summary: We can learn much about modern America by looking at past predictions. Unlike today’s news, we not only can assess their accuracy, but also their reasonableness as forecasts when they were made. We now have 50+ years of predictions from Left and Right, mostly designed to frighten us into obedience. Let’s remember and learn from them. This post looks at a small but entertaining one, typical of its time, about the terrifying America of 2017.
“Priorities must be established, or this might be the end for Earth as we know it.”
— Memo to the President by media magnate Glenn Howard (played by Gene Barry) in “LA 2017”.
Some things never change. That’s a lesson from watching the TV show “L.A. 2017”. Directed by the 24-year old Steven Spielberg, it aired on 15 January 1971 as an episode of The Name of the Game. It described a horrific world 46 years in the future (2017), after pollution had destroyed the Earth’s ecology and forced the remnants of humanity to live underground.
In this version of 2017, Los Angeles has one cow; its milk is a delicacy for the rich. For more about the plot see this.
It was written by Philip Wylie, a science fiction writer with a successful specialty in doomster stories about nuclear war and ecological doom. He novelized it as Los Angeles: A.D. 2017. See a review here.
While Hollywood worked to terrify the public into action — it was aired before the second anniversary of Earth Day — real policy experts had been working for decades to end the polluting of America. The key regulations had already been enacted when “LA 2017” was first broadcast, and many more have been enacted since then.
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 began the long process of cleaning America’s waters, with major amendments enacted in 1961, 1966, 1970, 1972 (a complete revision), 1977, and 1987. The Clean Air Acts of 1955, 1963, 1967, and 1970 had broken the back of that problem; subsequent amendments in 1977 and 1990 — and Obama’s proposals — have continued this progress. The Environmental Protection Agency opened shop on 2 December 1970, and has accomplished great things in its brief history.
The improvement in America’s environment since 1960 is amazing, a public policy accomplishment we can take pride in — and a rebuttal to those who disregard American history to claim that government seldom (or never) does anything good at home.
Effects of these fear barrages
While those spinning these tales mean well, they have subjected America to a fear barrage about the environment for over 50 years. Massive famines predicted for the 1970s and 1980s, resource exhaustion always coming soon, the end of snow, the parade of superstorms predicted to following Katrina, and other grim tidings that have not arrived. It’s an almost endless list of failed predictions.
These succeeded in one sense. They have blinded many Americans to the actual improvements in our environment, creating widespread pessimism about the future, and cynicism — or outright disbelief — about new warnings (a well-deserved “Boy Who Cried Wolf” form of blowback).
During the last 20 years the Left has focused its warnings about the environment almost exclusively on the dangers of global warming (rebranded as climate change). So far the results are dismal, both in terms of convincing the public that it is a high-priority problem or making substantial changes in public policy (even its supporters admit that Obama’s mild proposals will have minimal effect on the climate, if enacted).
The Right also relies on fear barrages to influence the American public, as does the government. They all do use fear because it works so well on Americans — when done competently, a skill the Left has not managed to learn despite their long practice. Perhaps they might try relying more on the truth, doing something almost unknown in modern American politics.
For More Information
If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information see all posts about Information and Disinformation, about fear as a political tool, and especially these examples from one of the most incompetently run publicity campaigns ever…
- Mother Jones sounds the alarm about global warming! This time about the north pole.
- The North Pole is now a lake! Are you afraid yet?
- Climate science deniers on the Left, captured for viewing.
- Climate change sinks the Left, while scientists unravel mysteries we must solve.
- Watch the Left burn away more of its credibility, then wonder why the Right wins.
- Apocalyptic thinking on the Left about climate change risks burning their credibility.
- Six headlines from 2009 telling us important news about 2015’s climate — Doom real soon, then and now.