Karl du Fresne discusses the world’s calamities that never were and the propensity of dissenters to be silenced when their truths become uncomfortable.
FOR ALMOST as long as I can remember, experts have been warning us to brace ourselves for catastrophe.
For decades it was the Cold War and the threat of nuclear obliteration that threatened us. In the 1970s we shuddered at the prospect of a nuclear winter, in which soot and smoke from nuclear warfare would condemn the planet to decades of frigid semi-darkness.
And who can forget the alarm generated by predictions that acid rain would denude vast areas of forest, kill marine life and even cause buildings to collapse?
Other recurring doomsday predictions revolved around over-population and famine. As it turns out, the world now has more obese people than malnourished ‚Äď a fact that has given the experts something new to harangue us about.¬†
There have been other scares, too, including Aids and the Millennium Bug. It was seriously predicted that the latter would create universal chaos the moment the clocks ticked past December 31, 1999.
We‚Äôre still waiting for the grotesque mutations foreseen by opponents of genetic modification. And then there was peak oil, though the dismalists seem to have gone quiet on that too.
There are always experts loudly predicting the worst. But none of the above¬†prophecies came to pass, either because they were scientifically unsound or greatly exaggerated to start with, or because human ingenuity and good sense intervened.
Even when terrible things¬†have¬†happened ‚Äď such as Chernobyl and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill ‚Äď the eventual outcome has almost invariably been less apocalyptic than the prophets of doom foresaw. ¬†¬†