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April 22, 2011 / Political Fluency

Seventh-Day Environmentalists

Here is a short history of Earth Day.

In the early 19th century a man named William Miller calculated the exact date of Jesus Christ’s return to earth. He eventually became so sure of his calculation that he began preaching that October 22, 1844 would be the last day of existence.

Such a stark message resonated over the years and Miller acquired quite a following. Privy to this valuable insight, his followers logically sold their possessions and waited on a hill for the coming of Jesus. Night fell on October 22nd and the sun rose on October 23rd. After getting burned by this alarmism, many followers rebuilt their lives and abandoned Miller’s belief of an imminent second coming.

But some did not. In fact, they actually created a new Christian sect with 16 million members known as Seventh-Day Adventism. Apparently cognitive dissonance can last for generations and even multiply.

As we await the end of the world a century and a half later, we are fortunate to have parodies of mind-numbing cults in popular fare like Fight Club:

Angel Face: He was killed serving Project Mayhem, sir.

Narrator: This is Bob.

Steph: But in Project Mayhem, we have no names.

Narrator: No, listen to me. This is a man and he has a name, and it’s Robert Paulson, okay?

Mechanic: Robert Paulson.

Narrator: He is dead now, because of us, alright? You understand that?

[Everyone stares at Narrator]

Mechanic: I understand. In death, a member of Project Mayhem has a name. His name is Robert Paulson.

Steph: His name is Robert Paulson.

Narrator: Stop it! Shut up!

All Space Monkeys: His name is Robert Paulson!

All Space Monkeys: [louder] His name is Robert Paulson! His name is Robert Paulson!

In the face of completely contradictory evidence to your worldview, simply move the goalposts to realign reality to your existing perspective.

Now here are some real-life quotes from 1970 that even Space Monkeys would have rejected by now:

“The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”
~ Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”
~ Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist
“Demographers agree almost unanimously: 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, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world… will be in famine.”
~ Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University, Earth Day 1970

“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….”
Life Magazine, January 1970

The earth is very resilient. The earth’s temperature, sea level, and atmosphere have all changed radically over the most recent one-seventh of our planet’s existence. For those of you who are followers of either Miller or environmentalists, that’s about 700 million years ago. Do you know what the earth’s temperature was then? Cold enough where the entire planet was essentially covered in ice!

The most accurate data we have about the environment of earth is from the past century. And that’s being kind considering Dennis Miller’s brilliant quip “I don’t know if we can really say we have temperatures going back to the 1830’s. When the guy set up some thermometer and then went to take a dump in some wooden shack outhouse, I mean is that reading as accurate as the instruments today?”

We can and should make some efforts to stop pollution in a manner that does not significantly alter our way of life with higher taxation and overpriced vehicles. That’s something sensible.

For everyone else, they will continue fearing for an end that will never come.


Thanks to Gary M. Miller, I Hate the Media, and The Daily Cannibal for the Earth Day quotes.


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