This 1975 UPI article has been making the rounds lately. It predicts, based on then-current usage rates and the reserves of petroleum known to exist at that time, that the “last barrel of oil” will have been pumped from the “last well on earth” in 2015.
Back in the ’70s, these kinds of dire forecasts and disaster scenarios were pretty commonplace — and all of them, incidentally, made predictions of what life would be like about 40 years into the future. Whether it was oil crises, the “population bomb,” world-wide food shortages, air and water pollution poisoning the environment beyond redemption, or the ever-present possibility of global nuclear war leaving the Earth a dead, irradiated husk, there were catastrophes galore just waiting to happen a few decades into the future. As a result, some of the popular fiction and movie scenarios of the day were pretty grim, with bestsellers like The Late Great Planet Earth and movies featuring Charlton Heston shouting to the world that “Soylent Green is people . . . people!”
So, here we are in 2015, at about the time when some of the worst stuff — overcrowded people penned up like goats in soulless camps being fed algae as the only reliable food supply, mass starvation, “nuclear winter,” a return to the Dark Ages due to lack of energy sources — was supposed to he happening. Instead of pumping the last barrel of oil, however, we’ve discovered so much new oil and natural gas that the price of oil is plunging. Instead of dirty-faced people overrunning the planet, we’ve seen a steady overall decline in global growth rates and, in some countries, concern that birth rates are so low that new citizens aren’t fully replacing those that are dying. And while there is still hunger in the world, the Earth is producing an abundance of food.
You know, when you compare the calamitous predictions to the modern-day reality, 2015 really is pretty sweet. Now, if only there were flying cars and cheap space travel . . . .