For reasons that Global End-of-World Conspiracy theorists don't fully understand, The End™ is always approaching and then passes by, requiring new dates and even greater predictions of the Earth's Doom.
In 1968, in his best-selling book The Population Bomb, scientist Paul Ehrlich declared: "In the 1970s the world will undergo famines - hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death."
In 1972, in their influential landmark study The Limits to Growth, the Club of Rome announced that the world would run out of gold by 1981, of mercury by 1985, tin by 1987, zinc by 1990, petroleum by 1992, and copper, lead, and gas by 1993.
In 1977, Jimmy Carter, President of the United States incredible as it may seem, confidently predicted that "we could use up all of the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade."
Now, in 2002, with enough oil for a century and a half, the planet awash in cut-price minerals, and less global famine, starvation and malnutrition than ever before, the end of the world has had to be rescheduled. The latest estimated time of arrival for the apocalypse is 2032. Last week, the United Nations Global Environmental Outlook predicted "the destruction of 70% of the natural world in 30 years, mass extinction of species, and the collapse of human society in many countries ... More than half the world will be afflicted by water shortages, with 95% of people in the Middle East with severe problems ... 25% of all species of mammals and 10% of birds will be extinct ..." Etc., etc., for 450 pages. But let's cut to the chase: As The Guardian's headline writer put it, "Unless We Change Our Ways, The World Faces Disaster."
Not only is it our fault, but the answer is always to heed the advice of the same people whose previous predictions of Then End™ are now in the rearview mirror.
"Time is running out to deal with climate change," says Mr Guilbeault [of Greenpeace]. "Ten years ago, we thought we had a lot of time, five years ago we thought we had a lot of time, but now science is telling us that we don't have a lot of time."
Really? Ten years ago, we had a lot of time? That's not the way I recall it: "Time is running out for the climate" - Chris Rose of Greenpeace, 1997; "Time running out for action on global warming Greenpeace claims" - Irish Times, 1994; "Time is running out" - scientist Henry Kendall, speaking on behalf of Greenpeace, 1992. Admirably, Mr Guilbeault's commitment to the environment extends to recycling last decade's scare-mongering press releases.
Mark Steyn noted in 2007 that some very important people were very specific about the exact date of The End™
According to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, we only have 96 months left to save the planet. I'm impressed. 96 months. Not 95. Not 97. July 2017. Put it in your diary. Usually the warm-mongers stick to the same old drone that we only have ten years left to save the planet. Nice round number. Al Gore said we only have ten years left three-and-a-half years ago, which makes him technically more of a pessimist than the Prince of Wales. Al's betting that Armageddon kicks in sometime in January 2016 — unless he's just peddling glib generalities... As the British newspaper the Independent reported:
Capitalism and consumerism have brought the world to the brink of economic and environmental collapse, the Prince of Wales has warned. . . . And in a searing indictment on capitalist society, Charles said we can no longer afford consumerism and that the 'age of convenience' was over.
He then got in his limo and was driven to his other palace.
Things are so bad that a lot of you are going to have to leave the planet.
We are so bad, so polluting, so exploitative, so violent, so destructive that we owe it to the world not to be born in the first place. As Dr Sue Blackmore wrote in Britain's Guardian:
In all probability billions of people are going to die in the next few decades. Our poor, abused planet cannot take much more... If we take the unselfish route and try to save everyone the outcome is likely to be horrific conflict in the fight over resources, and continuing devastation of the planet until most, or all, of humanity is dead.
If we decide to put the planet first, then we ourselves are the pathogen. So we should let as many people die as possible, so that other species may live, and accept the destruction of civilization and of everything we have achieved.
Finally, we might decide that civilization itself is worth preserving. In that case we have to work out what to save and which people would be needed in a drastically reduced population - weighing the value of scientists and musicians against that of politicians, for example.
Hmm. On the one hand, Dr Sue Blackmore and the bloke from Coldplay. On the other, Dick Cheney. I think we can all agree which people would be "needed" – Al Gore, the board of the Sierra Club, perhaps Scarlett Johansson in a fur-trimmed bikini paddling a dugout canoe through a waterlogged Manhattan foraging for floating curly endives from once fashionable eateries.
Curiously, those environmentalists calling for a dramatically smaller population never seem to lead by example, and always manage to give the impression that no matter how small the ark is they're a shoo-in for a first-class stateroom.
The Enders™ explain - with a straight face - that the more poverty-stricken you are, the happier.
In his Guardian column this week, our old friend George Monbiot argued persuasively that poverty made people happier: "In southern Ethiopia, for example," wrote George, "the poorest half of the poorest nation on earth, the streets and fields crackle with laughter. In homes constructed from packing cases and palm leaves, people engage more freely, smile more often, express more affection than we do behind our double glazing, surrounded by remote controls."
He's so right. That's why I'm glad I made the effort to attend the opening gala of the Earth Summit, truly a night to remember. The banqueting suite of Johannesburg's Michelangelo Hotel was packed as Bob Mugabe warmed up the crowd with a few gags: "I don't know about you," he said, "but I'm starving..." With his usual brilliant comic timing, he paused just long enough. "...millions of people!"
The canned laughter - an authentic recording of happy Ethiopian peasants clutching their bellies and corpsing - filled the room.
Read the rest for the juicy parts.