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Afs – Apocalypse Fatigue Syndrome

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Hon Keith DeLacy AM

As an inherently impressionable person I have been dealing with the coming apocalypse all my life. It started with the bible. The Book of Revelation in the New Testament vividly warned of impending doom, and many of the Hebrew prophets forecast the apocalypse.

Pope Sylvester II at the beginning of the millennium year 1000, predicted the Millennium Apocalypse, the end of the world. Riots occurred throughout Europe and pilgrims headed to Jerusalem seeking salvation.

And the Apocalypse was always associated with sin, it was deserved. “And these will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:40) If I had been thinking sinful thoughts, I trembled at night, dreaming of the fires of hell. There was no escape.

Thomas Malthus wrote an Essay on the Principle of Population in 1798 and became the preeminent father of doom. Unchecked population growth would lead to inevitable catastrophe – population growth was exponential while the growth in food supply was arithmetical.

We were impressionable kids, we grew up with Malthusiasm, waiting for doomsday. It was a compelling argument. Yet 200 years later, despite exponential population growth the world is so much wealthier and better fed. The Malthusian apocalypse was no better than Pope Sylvester’s.

Paul Erhlich became a cult figure in the 1970’s. Malthus’ inability to deliver on his population apocalypse proved no deterrence to Erhlich. He wrote The Population Bomb in 1968 forecasting that “sometime between 1970 and 85 the world will undergo vast famines, hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.”

Yet while he was prophesizing doom the green revolution (nothing to do with Bob Brown) was dramatically changing global food production. The number of people in acute poverty decreased from 40% of the population to just 10%. Calorie intake per person increased by one third.

He became the Father of misanthropy and alarmism. In a 1971 speech he said “If I were a gambler, I would take even money England will not exist in the year 2000.”

In fact he was a gambler. In a celebrated wager with Julian Simon he bet the average price of 10 commodities (selected by Ehrlich) would increase over the next 10 years. They reduced by 30%, rendering Ehrlich’s doomsday thesis a joke.

Ronald Bailey said Erhlich was “an irrepressible doomster who, as far as I can tell has never been right in any of his forecasts of imminent catastrophe” But he knew no shame. He is still around prognosticating doom, but is anybody listening?

The Club of Rome, a group of world leaders, celebratory scientists and industrialists met in Rome in 1972 and published The Limits to Growth, banging on about overpopulation and resource depletion. They said exponential use could exhaust known world supplies of zinc gold tin copper oil and natural gas by 1992 and cause a collapse in civilization in the subsequent century.

If only they were a bit right, a resource rich nation like Australia could get much better prices for our raw materials today – a resources boom that goes on forever! But they became a very influential group, and some of their scary solutions on curbing population and economic growth were enough to make one wake up in a cold sweat.

It was inevitable that the United Nations would jump on board, who could resist such an opportunity to save the world and soak in the virtue? In their Agenda 21 summit in Rio in 1990 they said “Humanity stands at a defining moment in history We are confronted with a perpetuation of disparities within and between nations, a worsening of poverty, ill-health and illiteracy, and a continued deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for our wellbeing.” Notwithstanding the fact that the following decade saw the sharpest decrease in poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy in human history.

It was around this time that I came to realize that there was a great dividend in alarmism, we seem to lap up darkness and reject the light. Good news is no news. The media megaphone is at the disposal of any activist who can forecast Armageddon. And the beauty is that the forecast doesn’t have to bear any relationship to reality. There is no comeuppance.

The last straw for me was Y2K – a calendar change at the turn of the millennium that spooked fears of the end of the world. I thought who could believe this nonsense? But the frenzy became overpowering. Time magazine staff set up a generator-powered “war room” in the basement of the Time/Life building in New York filled with computers and equipment ready to produce the magazine in the face of a catastrophic breakdown of electricity and communications.

2000 came and went without a whimper, apart from extinguishing billions of dollars world wide on the impossible scare. My impressionability was finally extinguished also.

The UN Agenda 21 inevitably morphed into the global warming scare.

Global warming? As a tropical boy who couldn’t stand the cold I had been terrified in the 1970’s at the prospect of an ice age. In 1975 Newsweek in an article “The cooling world” warned that the changes may portend a drastic decline in food production. Time magazine ran a front page story “The Big Freeze”. Professor Kenneth Watt, in his 1970 Earth Day speech warned “If present trends continue, the world will be eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

Now Global Warming! Please forgive me but I have surrendered the faith.

Climate change, potentially the greatest potential apocalypse of them all – we were all going to fry and the cardinal sin was human emissions of CO2. The United Nations Environment Program predicted in 2005 that global warming would create 50 million climate refugees by 2010.

And they talk of consensus. Well I know one area where it has been overwhelming. 97% of IPCC climate models have grossly over exaggerated observed global temperatures over the last 25 years. The bloody climate just won’t obey the models.

The high priest of global warming, Al Gore, predicted in December 2008 that “the entire North Polar ice cap will be gone in five years”. Arctic sea ice area was 12.5 million sq kms in 2008 and, would you believe, 12.5 million sq kms in December 2013.

The ABC (Australia) reported in 2005 that our own worthy apostle Professor Tim Flannery, then Climate Change Commissioner, predicted that the ongoing drought could leave Sydney’s dams dry in just two years. The prediction missed by 2.5 billion litres. In fact more than 10 years later he is still out by 2.5 billion litres.

I could go on forever. Maybe one day one of these horsemen of the Apocalypse will reach the finishing post, but I won’t be backing it. I have a chronic case of Apocalypse Fatigue Syndrome.

Keith DeLacy is one of Queensland’s best known public figures. He is immediate past President of the Queensland Division of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and was a member of the National Board

Over the years he has served as Chairman of Macarthur Coal, Queensland Sugar, Ergon Energy, the Cubbie Group, CEC, Trinity Group and a host of others.

He was Treasurer of Queensland in the Goss Labor Government from 1989 to 1996.

In recognition of his services to Australia he has been awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), Honorary Doctorates from both James Cook and Central Queensland Universities, the University of Queensland Gatton Gold Medal, and the Centenary Medal.

His book Blood Stains the Wattle was published in 2002.


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