Summary: Despite predictions of certain environmental doom for 2017, Los Angeles has survived. While we celebrate, let’s learn from these and 50 years of other confident predictions designed to frighten us into obedience. Let’s learn from them.
On 15 January 1971 Americans watched a TV show by a hot new director, the 24-year old Steven Spielberg. It was “L.A. 2017”, an episode of The Name of the Game. In it the hero has a vision of Los Angeles 46 years in the future, after pollution had destroyed the Earth’s ecology and forced the remnants of humanity to live underground. Los Angeles has one cow; its milk is a delicacy for the rich. For more about the plot see this.
The script was by Philip Wylie, a science fiction writer with a specialty in stories about nuclear war and ecological doom. Those were as popular then as stories about climate apocalypses are today. He novelized it as Los Angeles: A.D. 2017. See a review here.
This was part of Hollywood’s campaign to terrify the public into action about pollution. It was aired before the second anniversary of Earth Day, near the peak of the hysteria. But while the Left warned about the coming doom, experts had been working for decades to clean up America. The key laws and regulations had already been enacted when “LA 2017” was broadcast.
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 broke the back of that problem; subsequent amendments in 1977 and 1990 continued that 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. We can take pride in this public policy accomplishment. It is a rebuttal to those who deny America’s history and claim that our government seldom (or never) does anything good for us. This should give us confidence that even the most confident predictions of doom by political activists should be regarded skeptically — including those that fill the newspapers.
Another prediction of doom for 2017!
This year was the setting for “The Fire Next Time“, a 1993 made-for-TV applauded as a realistic warning about climate change. It told the tale of family trekking from Louisiana to New York. They sought a home not yet destroyed by the effects of global warming — droughts, floods, and hurricanes. It included a TV interview with Stephen Schneider (Professor of Environmental Biology at Stanford) playing himself, explaining how we caused this destruction. Now 2017 has arrived and the people of Louisiana are still safe!
Other predictions of doom from 1971
In 1971 we read about the horrific future of 2000 AD in a serious journal, the New Scientist: “In Praise of Prophets” by Bernard Dixon.
“If current trends continue by the year 2000 the United Kingdom will simply be a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people, of little or no concern to the other 5-7 billion inhabitants of a sick world. …If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”
— Paul R. Ehrlich speaking in London at the Institute of Biology in autumn 1969.
Ehrlich also predicted worldwide plague, thermonuclear war, death of the seas, “rocketing” death rates, and ecological catastrophe. Dixon reported that “the audience loved it and gasped for more”. Oddly, people still praise Paul Ehrlich as a prophet.
A new round begins: climate doomster films
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). We were told about the imminent end of snow, the parade of superstorms predicted to follow Katrina, and other grim tidings that have not arrived.
Again Hollywood contributes its visions of doom. Climate change is the new supervillain. Hope that this time it will work lives at the New York Times, which asks “Can Hollywood Movies About Climate Change Make a Difference?” Have minds been changed by Day After Tomorrow (2004), The Last Winter (2006), Snowpiercer (2013), Interstellar (2014), Blade Runner 2049, and now Geostorm? Anyone not yet convinced can see Downsizing in December.
Effects of these fear barrages
Those spinning these stories mean well, often telling “noble lies” to encourage the public to adopt the “correct” opinions — for our own good. We have had five decades of fear barrages. In the 1970s and 1980s they predicted massive famines. Resource exhaustion was always coming soon (including three decades of warnings about peak oil). Plus warnings of lethal plagues, from swine flu in 1976 to Ebola in 2014.
For more about this See the Left’s past warnings, and also We love scary stories. The reason why reveals a secret about America.
So far most of these have been failures. The climate change campaign of fear has been the biggest of them all, and perhaps the least successful. It has neither convinced the public that climate change is a high-priority problem nor forced substantial changes in public policy (even his supporters admit that Obama’s mild measures will have minimal effect on the climate, if they survive court challenges and the Trump years).
These fear barrages had some effects. They blinded many Americans to the dramatic improvements in our environment. They helped break our optimism about the future. And, perhaps worst of all, they helped created widespread cynicism — often outright disbelief — about warnings. We have a “Boy Who Cried Wolf” blowback, so that now warnings are regarded skeptically or ignored nor matter how good the evidence. That might prove costly in the future, or even disastrous.
Of course, the Right also relies on fear barrages to influence the American public (e.g., decades of commies everywhere!, plus hysteria about crime as crime rates fall). As does the government. Why don’t our elites rely more heavily on the truth in their campaigns? Perhaps they believe that fear is the most effective way to communicate with us. Let’s prove to them that we are better than that.
For More Information
- Today’s conservative doomster warning (ludicrous but fun) — Paul Craig Roberts sees the End.
- Requiem for fear. Let’s learn from failed predictions to have confidence in ourselves & our future.
- Threats come & go, leaving us in perpetual fear & forgetful of the past.
- Dreams of apocalypses show the brotherhood of America’s Left & Right.
- Collapsitarians and their doomster porn.
- Journalists suffer from the crisis crisis, warping America’s vision.
- So many of our hit films show dystopias. This shows how we’ve changed.