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.”


Snow avalanche hazards in Belgium

It does not take much to crack a smile sometimes. In my mailbox, I had this letter from an insurance company insisting on covering my car against natural disasters. It was stated that “global warming may cause many climat changes”. I am quite aware that we are no longer safe. Even in Belgium. But I simply cannot imagine ensuring my car against snow avalanche, hurricane, earthquake or volcanic eruption hazards. Now that makes me giggle.

Our plundered planet

Here is a disconcerting book which happens to sound accurate and topical, although it has been written in 1948, by Fairfield Osborn, president of the New York Zoological Society. This essay has appeared very influential in the growth of the environmental movements. Overpopulated and plundered by man’s greed, our Earth is in jeopardy. Every organism is interrelated.

Topical issues are brought up: famine, overpopulation, chemicals’ abuse and dangerousness, certain animals species extinction,… The analysis is detailed and undoubtly premonitory.

“We are more likely to destroy ourselves in our persistent and world-wide conflict with nature than in any war of weapons yet devised.”

Along with famous key figures, Albert Einstein endorsed this book.

Reading it, one feels very keenly how futile most of our political quarrels are compared with the basic realties of life.”

Author of “Brave New World” Aldous Huxley also urges to read the book and stresses on the essay’s impact and lucidity. Indeed.