Global warming warning in the Fifties

“Is Earth warming up?” This is the surprising question that I came across, leafing through a 1956 almanac. The answer is even more startling. After all, back in those days, we were decades away from environmental concerns.

1956_0001Since meteorological facilities are installed on floating ice floes in the Arctic Ocean, Russians and Americans have recorded significant rising temperatures in the North Pole. The same phenomenon was observed in Antarctica. In the 50s, the Arctic ice caps had a retreat of 150 meters per year, while in Siberia, melting ice was revealing mammoth carcasses.

But that is not all. The average temperature of the city of Leningrad increased by 1° Celsius (33.8° F) between 1940 and 1954. And in the northernmost parts of Europe, birches and pine trees were spreading.

global-warming-1494965_640Scientists such as Charles Keeling and Roger Revelle had already studied the greenhouse effect in the late 50’s but their work had little impact and mostly lack of interest back then. The men were ahead of their times because it was not until the 90’s that governments start taking action and consider the need to embed the protection of the planet into sustainable economic development.

At that time though, it was still unclear whether this trend was a slow and steady one since the end of the Ice Age, or a sudden one. For a century, the average annual temperatures across the globe increased depending on the locations, from 1° to 4° C (33.8° to 39.2° F). “One day,” the author says in the almanac, “our temperate regions will be hot and dry. Population and civilization will move northward, causing a change in the global balance of power. Canada, Alaska, Russia, Siberia will be humanity’s new poles of attraction.”

polar-bear-1509103_1280Therefore, Russians and Americans will set new stations in Arctic areas, the journalist concludes. Since 1930, 5 million Russians have been colonizing the area. Northern Lights and the melting of the ice caps are to be studied in the years 1957 and 1958.

“One of the most surprising consequences of the melting of the ice caps will be the sea level rise of several dozen meters, and Paris will perhaps become a real seaport! …” Um .. Not really looking forward to this prediction.

In 1958, Frank Capra produced an educational film titled “The Unchained Goddess”. Amazingly it is clearly stated that global warming may be the next danger humanity will have to face. This statement gives you shivers up and down your spine: “Because with our present knowledge we have no idea what would happen. Even now, man may be unwittingly changing the world’s climate through the waste products of his civilization. Due to our release through factories and automobiles every year of more than six billion tons of carbon dioxide, which helps air absorb heat from the sun, our atmosphere seems to be getting warmer.”

What goes around comes around

Turning-Clock-Back-Man

Harris & Ewing (1918)

Earth is about 4.5 billion years old and I came across an article stating that the oldest human DNA is 400,000 years old. Which is a venerable age for humanity, but virtually young to universe’s standards.

If we were to represent the history of Earth through a 24-hour clock, Earth would appear at 0:00:00, the origin of life starts at 4:00 AM, dinosaurs are showing up at 10:56 PM and humans are coming out at 11:58:43 PM. And the latecomers turned the planet upside down.

Do not ask me what happens at midnight but what I cannot figure out is how in a so short existence, humanity has been able to cast a shadow on the milky way. Because of light pollution, one third of the planet is now unable to observe our galaxy.

Physicist Stephen Hawking recently made a statement about pollution and stupidity as biggest threats on mankind itself. Overcrowding is a major concern too. “The population has grown by half a billion since our last interview, with no end in sight.”, says Professor Hawking to the Independent. “At this rate, it will be eleven billion by 2100. Air pollution has increased by 8 percent over the past five years. More than 80 percent of inhabitants of urban areas are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution.”

There was a time, in a very distant past, when all the resources were abundant and especially free. A time when wealth and poverty did not split up humanity. Today, 62 persons in the world are as rich as half of the poorest world’s population,  according to Oxfam. Tax havens enabled the wealthiest individuals to conceal $7.6 trillion. The super rich has today the power to bring poverty to a close, not once but… four times over. And there is more. There is enough food produced worldwide to feed everyone, still one out of seven people is starving.

The Earth’s clock almost shows the midnight hour. Or so it seems. Maybe after midnight, all is starting all over again. Maybe life is a circle, like infinity, like eternity. Maybe humanity is given another chance. Maybe. Maybe not. What if the past is actually the future? What if we were caught in a vicious circle? I am dreaming, I may be even rambling but when are we going to learn that we really are dispensable in the universe…