Earth day, since its beginning in 1970, has tried to have ecological gravitas. It has tried to raise awareness of earth’s health, which its founders saw as a fraying cord tethering humans very existence. We were doing to the earth what I wanted to do with Mary Sue Horsley.
At the time of this first Earth Day, grave people, mostly men, with letters behind their names indicating that they knew quite a bit about one thing, gravely trotted out to make grave predictions:
- “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.” gravely said Stanford University biologist, Paul Ehrlich.
- “It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” said a grave Denis Hayes, Chief organizer for Earth Day
- “At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable,” Ecologist Kenneth Watt gravely told Time magazine.
“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.”
Despite these apocalyptic jeremiads, Newsweek said that the first Earth Day was, “A bizarre nationwide rain dance,” devoid of the passion of antiwar and civil rights movements and the issues yielded “the kind of nearly unanimous blather usually reserved for the flag.” Time magazine said of the first Earth Day that it had “aspects of a secular, almost pagan holiday.”
The other thing you might have noticed about these prophecies, besides being profoundly grave, they were profoundly wrong.
You would think that making predictions so risibly wrong would temper these Old Testament prophets. After all, in Old Testament times, a bad prophecy could get you tossed in a pit followed by rocks raining down on your head. No do overs for Daniel. Today, however, would-be Daniels have have more than 50 years of do-overs.
These same prophets from 1970, have simply changed the date of the doom that is sure to arrive…any day now…no really!…trust them. At least Waiting for Godot, ends eventually.
Earth Day 2017, will be little different in the unfocused carnival atmosphere from previous ones: soundbites and slogans will masquerade as profound wisdom. Except, this year, there will be a parade beforehand.