In 1956, we thought we would be out of oil by 1980

1956_newReading almanacs can be enlighting. Surprinsgly, matters of today echo back to yesterday. Some concerns sprouted up in the past and are still worrying us now. “Will we still have oil in 2000?” This is the question that came up in a headline of the 1956 French Hachette Almanac.

In the 50s and the 60s, the environment was not a major concern. As today, man wanted to exploit resources. Man’s greed had no limit and after all, we probably thought there would always be plenty and more. Labeled as the golden age, the 50s era was filled with illusions, rock ‘n’ roll and unwavering faith in technological progress. Yet in 1956, oil stocks roughly came to 20 billion tons. Given the increasing consumption, stocks should be exhausted in less than 30 years, the article pointed.

According to the World Energy Resources Program of the US Geological Survey, it would take now less than 50 years to run out of oil. Of course, no one can really be sure of the remaining years and estimations vary from one organization to another. Besides, some factors have to be taken into account, such as coal by-products, recycling materials or unexploited reserves located in Alaska’s wildlife sanctuaries, for instance. Let us hope that nature will have the last word.

In 1956, the US knew that oil stocks were constantly decreasing and decided to import black gold from the Middle East. At that time, it was believed that oil resources would last for 12 years, no more. “In the best case scenario, we certainly have oil for over 30 years, maybe 40 … but probably not 50”, says the author.

Some believed that nuclear energy would be the ultimate solution. They thought that cars would be powered by uranium…


What goes around comes around


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…

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.