I suppose it had to happen, and we all saw it coming, but the reality is still rather surprising. James Lovelock, founder of the Gaia movement and renowned for his terrifying predictions of climate change's deadly impact on the planet, has gone back on his previous claims, admitting they were 'alarmist'. He added that other environmental commentators including Al Gore are also guilty of exaggerating their arguments. The admission comes as a devastating blow to proponents of climate change who regard Lovelock as a powerful figurehead.
Only five years ago he was claiming that 'before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.'
But in a telephone interview recently he admitted: 'I made a mistake. The problem is we don’t know what the climate is doing. We thought we knew 20 years ago. That led to some alarmist books – mine included – because it looked clear cut, but it hasn’t happened. The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world.'
Doddering back from the brink
Lovelock has written two books, “Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back and How We Can Still Save Humanity”, and “The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning: Enjoy It While You Can”. He is now working on a third, presumably to be entitled “Gaia, what Gaia? Sorry, I'm a Mad Old Coot and I Made the Whole Thing Up”.
Last Sunday (22nd April 2012) was Earth Day, and the inimitable Alan Caruba collected together a few quotes to mark the occasion. The very first Earth Day took place in 1970, and this was what prominent scientists and others had to say then ...
“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind” - George Wald, Harvard biologist
“We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation” - Barry Commoner, Washington University biologist
“Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction” - New York Times editorial, the day after the first Earth Day
“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
“It is already too late to avoid mass starvation” - Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day in 1970
“We have about five more years at the outside to do something” - Kenneth Watt, ecologist
“By 1975 some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s” - Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist
“Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: 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, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions … by the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine” - Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University
“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
“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” - Kenneth Watt, Ecologist
“Air pollution … is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone” - Paul Ehrlich again. What a twat.
“We are prospecting for the very last of our resources and using up the non-renewable things many times faster than we are finding new ones” - Martin Litton, Sierra Club director
“By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate …that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any’” - Kenneth Watt, another repeat offender
“Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct” - Senator Gaylord Nelson. Still, who could take seriously someone called Gaylord?
“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” - go on, guess. Ehrlich? Close - Kenneth Watt yet again. What's it called when someone just can't stop running off at the mouth? Verbal diarrhoea? Logomania? Logorrhea? Agitolalia? Agitophasia? Tachylalia? Tachyphasia? Verbomania? ADHD? Tourette's?
“The new-fangled railway is an impossibility as a means of human travel. If a man exceed a speed of 25 or 30 miles an hour, the air he breathes shall become attenuated and he will surely suffocate” - Sir Cholmondeley ffitzroy Featherstonehaugh, 19th Century scientist
So, here we are in 2012 and the end of the world isn't running quite to schedule, apparently. It's 42 years since 1970, and there's some significance in that figure. 42 is 6 x 7, and both 6 and 7 are themselves highly significant; there are 7 days in a week, and 6 ... well, six is one less than 7 for a start, and there are 12 months in a year and 6 is half of 12 ... look, I'm just trying to be scientific here, all right? I'm relying on the evidence, choosing the bits that are significant and discarding those that are irrelevant. Isn't that what we scientists do, before telling everyone else to panic?
Besides, anyone who knows anything must remember that 42 is the answer to the question “What is the meaning of life?” How significant is that?
Ehrlich laughing all the way to the bank. Well, it's better than working ...
Mind you, back in 1970 those people like Lovelock, Ehrlich and the logomaniac Kenneth Watt did actually believe what they were saying. More modern opinion-shapers aren't even bothered whether they tell the truth or not, and can't be arsed to hide it either ...
“What we’ve got to do in energy conservation is try to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, to have approached global warming as if it is real means energy conservation, so we will be doing the right thing anyway in terms of economic policy and environmental policy” – Timothy Wirth, former U.S. Senator
“It doesn’t matter what is true, it only matters what people believe is true” – Paul Watson, co-founder of Greenpeace
... and that's just the vaguely human ones. The dribbling loonies, on the other hand, are perfectly clear which way they want things to go ...
“We have wished, we eco-freaks, for a disaster or for a social change to come and bomb us into Stone Age, where we might live like Indians in our valley, with our localism, our appropriate technology, our gardens, our homemade religion - guilt-free at last!” – Steward Brand, writing in the Earth Catalog
“Phasing out the human race will solve every problem on earth, social and environmental” - Dave Forman, founder of Earth First
“I suspect that eradicating smallpox was wrong. It played an important part in balancing ecosystems” - John Davis, editor of the Earth First Journal
“The extinction of the human species may not only be inevitable but a good thing ... this is not to say that the rise of human civilization is insignificant, but there is no way of showing that it will be much help to the world in the long run” - an editorial in The Economist.
Maurice Strong, senior advisor to Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary-General who chaired the gigantic (40,000 participants) “U.N. Conference on Environment and Development” in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and was responsible for putting together the Kyoto Protocol with thousands of bureaucrats, diplomats, and politicians: “We may get to the point where the only way of saving the world will be for industrial civilization to collapse ... isn’t it our job to bring that about?”
”In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. All these dangers are caused by human intervention and thus the real enemy, then, is humanity itself … believe humanity requires a common motivation, namely a common adversary in order to realize world government. It does not matter if this common enemy is a real one or one invented for the purpose“ - The Club of Rome
Richard Benedick, a deputy assistant secretary of state who headed policy divisions of the U.S. State Department: “A global warming treaty must be implemented even if there is no scientific evidence to back the greenhouse effect”
“The data doesn’t matter. We’re not basing our recommendations on the data. We’re basing them on the climate models” - Professor Chris Folland, Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research
“The models are convenient fictions that provide something very useful” - Dr David Frame, climate modeller, Oxford University
“Unless we announce disasters no one will listen” - Sir John Houghton, first chairman of the IPCC
“No matter if the science of global warming is all phony … climate change provides the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world” - Christine Stewart, former Canadian Minister of the Environment
IPCC official Ottmar Edenhofer in November 2010: “one has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. Climate change policy is about how we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth”
“A massive campaign must be launched to de-develop the United States. De-development means bringing our economic system into line with the realities of ecology and the world resource situation” - our old friend Paul Ehrlich, now “Professor of Population Studies”
“The only hope for the world is to make sure there is not another United States. We can’t let other countries have the same number of cars, the amount of industrialisation, we have in the US. We have to stop these Third World countries right where they are” - Michael Oppenheimer, Environmental Defense Fund
“Global Sustainability requires the deliberate quest of poverty, reduced resource consumption and set levels of mortality control” - Professor Maurice King. Translation: “kill all the poor people”
“The big threat to the planet is people: there are too many, doing too well economically and burning too much oil” – Sir James Lovelock, BBC Interview. To which might be added “Listening to too much crap, you silly old fool!”
“We must make this an insecure and inhospitable place for capitalists and their projects. We must reclaim the roads and ploughed land, halt dam construction, tear down existing dams, free shackled rivers and return to wilderness millions of acres of presently settled land” - David Foreman, co-founder of Earth First
“Complex technology of any sort is an assault on human dignity. It would be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy, because of what we might do with it” – Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute. Yeah, we could use it to plug in an electric chair. For you.
“The prospect of cheap fusion energy is the worst thing that could happen to the planet” - Jeremy Rifkin, Greenhouse Crisis Foundation
“Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun” - go on, guess!
“My three main goals would be to reduce human population to about 100 million worldwide, destroy the industrial infrastructure and see wilderness, with it’s full complement of species, returning throughout the world” - Dave Foreman, co-founder of Earth First. But first I must learn where to put the apostrophe.
“Current lifestyles and consumption patterns of the affluent middle class – involving high meat intake, use of fossil fuels, appliances, air-conditioning, and suburban housing – are not sustainable” – Maurice Strong, Rio Earth Summit. And how did you get to Rio, Maurice? What are you eating for tea tonight, a nice steak? How's your hotel – airconditioned?
“All these dangers are caused by human intervention and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome. The real enemy, then, is humanity itself” – Club of Rome, The First Global Revolution
“Mankind is the most dangerous, destructive, selfish and unethical animal on the earth” - Michael Fox, vice-president of The Humane Society. Whereas polar bears, for instance, are famous for their altruism and their advanced system of inter-species ethics.
“Humans on the Earth behave in some ways like a pathogenic micro-organism, or like the cells of a tumor” – Sir James Lovelock
“The Earth has cancer and the cancer is Man” - Club of Rome
“A cancer is an uncontrolled multiplication of cells, the population explosion is an uncontrolled multiplication of people. We must shift our efforts from the treatment of the symptoms to the cutting out of the cancer. The operation will demand many apparently brutal and heartless decisions” - just so long as you are spared, Professor Ehrlich?
“A reasonable estimate for an industrialised world society at the present North American material standard of living would be 1 billion. At the more frugal European standard of living, 2 to 3 billion would be possible” - United Nations, Global Biodiversity Assessment
“A total population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal” - Ted Turner, founder of CNN and major UN donor
“One American burdens the earth much more than twenty Bangladeshis. This is a terrible thing to say in order to stabilize world population, we must eliminate 350,000 people per day. It is a horrible thing to say, but it’s just as bad not to say it” – Jacques Cousteau. At last, something one can sympathise with. Kill one American, or twenty Bangladeshis. Hmm ....
“If I were reincarnated I would wish to be returned to earth as a killer virus to lower human population levels” - Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, patron of the World Wildlife Fund. Oh come on, Phil, you're already one of the lowest forms of life.
“Childbearing should be a punishable crime against society, unless the parents hold a government license. All potential parents should be required to use contraceptive chemicals, the government issuing antidotes to citizens chosen for childbearing” - David Brower, first Executive Director of the Sierra Club
“We need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination … so we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts … each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest” – Stephen Schneider, Stanford Professor of Climatology, lead author of many IPCC reports. Well, that approach really worked, didn't it?
“The only way to get our society to truly change is to frighten people with the possibility of a catastrophe” - Emeritus Professor Daniel Botkin. Oh I don't know. I'd rather start by seeing what happened if we shot all the environmentalists.
“We are on the verge of a global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis” - David Rockefeller, Club of Rome executive manager. I don't know much about this Club of Rome, but I think I'd like to join. I could quite fancy a club where you sit around talking bollocks all day and everyone else is too stupid to laugh at you.
“Humanity is sitting on a time bomb. If the vast majority of the world’s scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send out entire planet’s climate system into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced – a catastrophe of our own making” - Al Gore, the Queen of Purple Prose. Oh fuck off, Al. Go and polish your
“Climate Change will result in a catastrophic, global seal level rise of seven meters. That’s bye-bye most of Bangladesh, Netherlands, Florida and would make London the new Atlantis” – Greenpeace International. And glug! glug! from Canvey Island. In fact it has risen less than 7 inches in the last 100 years and is decelerating.
“The concept of national sovereignty has been immutable, indeed a sacred principle of international relations. It is a principle which will yield only slowly and reluctantly to the new imperatives of global environmental cooperation” – UN Commission on Global Governance report. And finally we get to the point. World government's the eventual goal, with Al Gore in charge.
“A keen and anxious awareness is evolving to suggest that fundamental changes will have to take place in the world order and its power structures, in the distribution of wealth and income” – Club of Rome. Or possibly not Al Gore. Perhaps there'll be a war between Gore and the Club of Rome to see who gets to be in charge. That'll be fun.
“Democracy is not a panacea. It cannot organize everything and it is unaware of its own limits. These facts must be faced squarely. Sacrilegious though this may sound, democracy is no longer well suited for the tasks ahead. The complexity and the technical nature of many of today’s problems do not always allow elected representatives to make competent decisions at the right time” – Club of Rome. And I bet Rome'll win. For you, Al Gore, ze war is over ...
“In my view, after fifty years of service in the United National system, I perceive the utmost urgency and absolute necessity for proper Earth government. There is no shadow of a doubt that the present political and economic systems are no longer appropriate and will lead to the end of life evolution on this planet. We must therefore absolutely and urgently look for new ways” – Dr. Robert Muller, UN Assistant Secretary General
“Nations are in effect ceding portions of their sovereignty to the international community and beginning to create a new system of international environmental governance as a means of solving otherwise unmanageable crises” – Lester Brown, WorldWatch Institute. Yeah, you wish.
“The right to have children should be a marketable commodity, bought and traded by individuals but absolutely limited by the state” - Kenneth Boulding, originator of the “Spaceship Earth” concept
“Free Enterprise really means rich people get richer. They have the freedom to exploit and psychologically rape their fellow human beings in the process ... capitalism is destroying the earth” - Helen Caldicott, Union of Concerned Scientists. Scientists would destroy it much better.
“Everything we have developed over the last 100 years should be destroyed” - Pentti Linkola. Who she? Don't know, don't care.
“If you ask me, it’d be a little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it. We ought to be looking for energy sources that are adequate for our needs, but that won’t give us the excesses of concentrated energy with which we could do mischief to the earth or to each other” - Amory Lovins in The Mother Earth – Ploughboy Interview, 1977. Sadly, no one did ask him.
“The only real good technology is no technology at all. Technology is taxation without representation, imposed by our elitist species upon the rest of the natural world” - John Shuttleworth. Yeah, listen to me, everyone, I can talk gibberish and make funny noises with my fingers and my lips, look ...
“Human beings, as a species, have no more value than slugs” - John Davis, editor of Earth First! journal. Yep, intelligent slugs have been writing the self-same thing for years, in journals like “Slugs First!”, “Slug for Men” and “Which Slug”
”I wish you all had one neck and that I had my hands on it” - Carl Panzram, serial killer and proto-environmentalist
Well, thank God that's over.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
Copyright © 2012 The GOS