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Michael Crichton - Let's Stop Scaring Ourselves [View All]

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Muzzle Tough Donating Member (187 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-13-04 10:29 PM
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Michael Crichton - Let's Stop Scaring Ourselves
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Some sound comments to counter the claims of doom and gloom that we're always hearing about. I like this article a lot.

This year I turned 62, and I find I have acquiredalong with aches and painsa perspective on the world that I lacked as a younger person. I now recognize that for most of my life I have felt burdened by highly publicized fears that decades later did not turn out to be true.

I was reminded of this when I came across this 1972 statement about climate: We simply cannot afford to gambleWe cannot risk inaction. Those scientists who are acting irresponsibly. The indications that our climate can soon change for the worse are too strong to be reasonably ignored. This author wasnt concerned about global warming. He was worried about global cooling and the coming ice age.


It may be mostly forgotten now, but back then many climate scientists shared his concern: Temperatures around the world had fallen steadily for 30 years, dropping half a degree in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968. Pack ice was increasing. Glaciers were advancing. Growing seasons had shortened by two weeks in only a few years.

In 1975, Newsweek noted ominous signs that weather patterns have begun to changewith serious political implications for just about every nation. Scientists were predicting that the resulting famines could be catastrophic.

But it is now clear that even as Newsweek was printing its fears, temperatures already had begun to rise. Within a decade, scientists would be decrying a global warming trend that threatened to raise temperatures as much as 30 degrees in the 21st century. Such predictions implied palm trees in Montana, and they have since been revised downward. By 1995, the UN midrange estimates were about 4 degrees over the next 100 years. Although concern about warming remains, the prospect of catastrophic change seems increasingly unlikely.


Similarly, for all of my adult life, informed people have lived in continual anxiety about an exploding world population and the inevitable resulting mass starvation and environmental degradation.

In the 1960s, experts like Paul Ehrlich spoke with conviction: In the 1970s the world will undergo famineshundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.


..... mass starvation never occurred either. Instead, per capita food production increased through the end of the century because of the green revolution resulting from increased agricultural efficiency and better seeds. Grain production increased as much as 600% per acre, bringing unprecedented crop yields around the world.


The 1970s saw the use of computers to predict future world trends. In 1972, The Club of Rome used its computers to warn us that raw materials were fast running out. By 1993 we would have exhausted our supplies of gold, mercury, tin, zinc, oil, copper, lead and natural gas. Yet 1993 came and went. We still have all these things, at prices that fluctuate but over the long term have generally declined.

What seems to be more accurate is that there is a perennial market for dire predictions of resource depletion. Human beings never tire of discussing the latest report that tells us the end is near. But, at some point, we might start regarding each breathless new claim with skepticism. I have learned to do so.

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