This past week, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist and habitual truant Greta Thunberg invaded the United Nations with a message of international alarm: “Repent, you environmental sinners, or the wrath of Mother Earth will drown you in its coming apocalypse.”

Of course, that is not exactly what she said. What Ms. Thunberg actually predicted was, “Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people can live in luxury …” She accused the rich of stealing the future of her yet unborn children. She demanded climate justice by changing the world’s economic system “before it’s too late.”

In other words, “Efface your environmental excesses or face eternal damnation!”

I previously lived in Greta Thunberg’s reality. In 1966, author Harry Harrison published a book called “Make Room! Make Room!” It was a novel set in the dystopian future of an overpopulated world in 1999. Later, the novel became the film “Soylent Green,” the story of dying oceans and year-round humidity due to the “greenhouse effect,” the ideological precursor to global warming. This popular wisdom based on the day’s best science suggested that pollution, poverty and overpopulation would delete the Earth’s resources, resulting in cannibalism. It was a fantasy bolstered by what passed for research. But young people believed it and, like me, acted accordingly.

In 1970, a youthful Ira Einhorn, the “hippie” Greta Thunberg of his day, created the first Earth Day in 1970. I participated. My high school created a major presentation highlighting the environmental crisis.

“Civilization will end in 15 to 30 years (by 1985 or 2000),” we shouted. It was based on a prediction by Harvard biologist George Wald. The New York Times agreed. It warned that failure to stop pollution and conserve resources would result in “extinction.” We concluded that at least “100 million to 200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next 10 years (before 1980).” Further, due to atmospheric nitrogen, land would shortly become unusable. This information was postulated in 1970 by Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich and ecologist Kenneth Watt.

It was scientific “fact.”

So, phenomena like Greta Thunberg are nothing new. She is me in 1970, convinced that famine is near and that only radical social change will save the planet. She lives in a comic book where the planet is always in danger, and where only a superhero like herself can reverse the coming krypton bombardment.

To people like Greta Thunberg and all the young people she led in a “climate strike” last week, we must point out that life on our planet depends on cheap, abundant fossil-fueled energy. It is factory farms, not small organic family farms, that produce food affordably. Inexpensive energy cuts the cost of nourishment so that even the poorest on the planet can consume high-protein meats and healthy green vegetables. Worldwide shipment of farm products means that even a ragged coffee farmer in South America can sell his beans to coffee sippers in Los Angeles.

Do we really want to return to a world where a farmer prepares a field with a horse tied to one end of a plow, the farmer strapped to the other? Even if we perfect the fully electric car, should we have to travel from New York to California without the use of an airplane?

Shutting down 25 percent of the world economy by banning industries from cattle ranching to Fed Ex is no way to save a planet. But it is a sure formula for placing the planetary population into poverty.

If global warming does exist, we will adapt. But the question of global climate cannot be solved by a childish plan to destroy the world-wide industrial infrastructure that lifted so many people out of abject poverty and placed them into an age of cheap energy resulting in abundant food and affordable heating, air conditioning and refrigeration.

Just as the young people in 1970 turned away from Ira Einhorn (especially after his later conviction for murder), so will young people turn away from Greta Thunberg and return to their natural optimism. As she ages and experiences the gifts of inexpensive energy, perhaps Ms. Thunberg too will abandon the world of the Luddites and rejoin the machine age.

Fifty years from now, this week will be Greta Thunberg’s 1970s’ moment. I wish her well in her future retrospective.

Contact Robert M. Levy at

(5) comments

Peyton Cook

CO2 is vital to life on earth. Fauna inhale air retain the oxygen and exhale CO2; flora absorbs CO2.

Sally Larson

I too participated in the first Earth Day in 1970 and was moved by our generation's newfound passion for protecting nature. It used to be if we threw something out of sight it would somehow be absorbed by nature and disappear but the Clevland Ohio burning river of 1969 couldn't be ignored. We did make a difference, laws changed making businesses responsible for their dumping of dangerous chemicals into our waterways. People became more concerned and wanted to do something about it.

But things are different now, we are getting messages from our weather and the rising earth temperatures. Nothing happens overnight but the slow consistent changes are already altering the coastlines with more flooding. People choose not to rebuild and the communities dependant on the taxes and population will be strained to let go of the infrastructures that keep the community vital. Instead of projecting what might happen as we did in the 70' we are now getting tangible clues that can't be ignored.

Greta Thunberg is the new you and me, but she has a stronger reason to be concerned than we did. Now is happening and Now is what we need to address. Don't be frivilous in your comments, pay attention to what is really going on, not what you thought was going to happen in the 70's.

Kent Misegades

Little, angry Greta is a puppet, being manipulated for financial gain by her parents. She lives in a country that heats its homes with dirty bunker oil or dirty wood pellets. She travels to the US on a sailing yacht made from carbon. Still wet behind the ears, she has the audacity to lecture adults while visiting a country that has done more than European countries to reduce CO2 emissions (despite these being harmless) through the increased use of natural gas for power generation.

Jim Tomashoff

Actually 91% of Swedish energy is produced by wind, solar, and nuclear power plants. While wood pellets are indeed used to heat homes, the average Swede uses more electricity than the average American yet produces less than 1/4 the CO2 as Americans. I have no idea what "dirty bunker oil" is and could find no reference to it. I likewise could find no evidence that Greta is "...being manipulated for financial gain by her parents." Perhaps Kent will enlighten us by providing citations for his assertions (he won't).

Dan Roman

CO2 emissions are harmless? Some folks take "how stupid can you be?" as a challenge and this one takes first prize.

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