China has snaffled the planet out from under the United States, but that's no reason for the moth-eaten sock-puppet in the Oval Office not to demonstrate that he's still a power to be reckoned with by holding an Earth Day summit on climate change.
In the old days, Earth Day for politicians just meant presidents and prime ministers had to be flown somewhere to be photographed planting a tree. Alas, a year of lockdown has given then a taste for something grander and more economically devastating. In a political culture incapable of talking about anything that matters, the exhausted rituals of our dying civilization take on an ever greater pseudo-urgency.
Anyway, in honor of the latest stupid pointless summit, I thought I'd rerun a few highlights from Earth Days of yore. In 2002, in The National Post of Canada, I offered a quick compilation album of greatest hits from the early days of the movement - "Apocalypse Soon":
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."
Ah, yes. The end of the world's nighness is endlessly deferred but the blame rests where it always has. With us.
And don't you forget it! Instead of getting hung up on details, the point to remember, as I wrote in Britain's Daily Telegraph in 2005, is that time is running out!!!!!!!!!
"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.
Instead of all this airy-fairy time-is-running-out scaremongering, thank goodness some experts are prepared to get more specific. This is from my syndicated column in 2009:
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.
Indeed. It's all very well for the Prince of Wales, Al Gore, Barbra Streisand and James Cameron to live like that. But if you peasants get a yen to move out of your hovel and get a three-bedroom home and trade your ox-cart for a Honda Civic, the planet will go to hell. Time is running out and, if we don't change our ways, a lot of us are gonna die. So the sooner we start in on you the better. This is from America Alone (personally autographed copies of which are exclusively available, etc, etc):
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.
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.
After the chorus of native dancers clad only in packing cases and palm leaves, Natalie Cole came on to sing her famous anthem to industrial development, "Unsustainable/That's what you are", and 65,000 of the world's most eligible bureaucrats, NGO executive council members and BBC environmental correspondents crowded the dance floor to glide cheek to cheek under a glitter ball of premium ox dung specially flown in from Bangladesh. It glittered because of the 120,000 flies buzzing around it, their gossamer wings dappling the international activists below in a myriad of enchanting shadows.
And then I saw her. She was wearing a low-cut dress and had the most fabulous pair of melons. "Holy cow!" I said, as she approached my table. "They've gotta be genetically modified!"
"No," she said, sliding into the chair opposite and giving me a good look at them. "They're all natural." She tossed them to Kofi Annan. "They're for his organic juggling routine." I had to laugh. Sabine Arounde is the Belgian delegate to Unescam, the United Nations Expensive Summits & Conferences Agenda Monopolisers and, lemme tellya, when she's in a room the rising temperatures are nothing to do with fossil fuel emissions.
"We met at Durban," I reminded her.
"Oh, yeah," she said. "The conference on world health..."
"Racism," I corrected her.
"Yeah, right," she said. "This one's more my bag. I'm very into S&M."
"Come again?" I said.
"Sustainable Alternative Natural Development Mechanisms," said Sabine.
We were interrupted by the waiter, as oleaginous as a tanker spill. "Will sir and madam be having the Beluga caviar, foie gras, lobster and magnum of champagne?"
"Certainly not!" I snapped. "The papers back home are full of stories about how we're all scoffing the caviar and chugging down the bubbly while just a mile down the road the locals are holding the Distended Belly of the Week competition. In compliance with Foreign and Commonwealth Office guidelines, I'll just stick with Set Menu B."
"An excellent choice," he said. "Would sir prefer the mako shark soup or the black rhino confit on a bed of Amazonian mahogany leaves?"
"I'll have the rhino," I said, "followed by the lightly poached panda with a goldenseal salad and two green-cheeked parrot's eggs over easy."
"And would sir like to see the wine list?"
"Just bring me a Scotch and humpback whale oil on the rocks."
As Sabine ordered, she looked coolly into my eyes and Natalie Cole's voice wafted across the room to capture the moment: "Like a cloud of smog that clings to me/How the thought of you does things to me..." The orchestra pit had been converted into an authentic replica of a Rwandan latrine and, even as Natalie sang the line, it sprang to life in a hundred dancing fountains of E coli-infected martini.
"There's something heady in the air tonight," I murmured.
"It's the CO2 ," purred Sabine.
Four hours later, the exhausted UN lovely, her spent body glistening with the heat of passion, lay back on the shards of her shattered headboard. "Wow!" she whimpered, struggling for breath. "Now that's what I call sustainable growth. You are incredible!"
"UN seen nothin' yet, baby," I murmured.
"Oh, Mark," said Sabine. "I don't know how much longer I can sustain this level of sustainable development conferencing."
On which note Happy Earth Day! Oh, except to observe that, a decade after I wrote the above, Dr Rajendra Pachauri (the late globetrotting climate-profiteer who headed up the IPCC) published a warmographic novel about a shagadelic climate honcho. There are a few differences between his scenario and mine. In Pachauri's warm-front bodice-ripper, every sex scene is peer-reviewed, and, alas, not all of them end well:
Sadly for Sanjay, writes Dr Pachauri, "the excitement got the better of him, before he could even get started".
Oh, dear. There are times when even a climate expert can't "hide the decline."
~Speaking of planetary devastation, there's no better way to celebrate Earth Day than by ordering up a copy of Marc Morano's Green Fraud: Why the Green New Deal Is Even Worse Than You Think, for which I had the pleasure of writing the foreword. Because of attempts to pressure Amazon into disappearing the thing, we're now offering Green Fraud at SteynOnline (with a personal autograph from yours truly) - or, better yet, you can combine both the Green New Deal and my own book on the climate mullahMichael E Mann in one dynamite denialist double-bill A Fraud and a Disgrace.
On the latter package, if you're a Mark Steyn Club member, don't forget to enter your promotional code at checkout for special member pricing. You can find more details about our Club here - and we also have a grand gift membership.