Slouching Toward Bethlehem

Posted by Roberta Grimes • April 27, 2024 • 18 Comments
The American Revolution, Thomas Jefferson, Understanding Reality

Raindrops are falling on my head.
And just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed,
Nothing seems to fit.
Those raindrops are falling on my head, they keep falling.

… So I just did me some talking to the sun,
And I told him I didn’t like the way he got things done.
Sleeping on the job!
Those raindrops are falling on my head, they keep falling.

… But there’s one thing I know.
The blues they send to meet me won’t defeat me,
it won’t be long till happiness steps up to greet me!
Burt F. Bacharach (1928-2023), from “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” (1969)

I still can remember the banner year of 1970 as if it were yesterday. I was right out of college, living in Boston, and working for a big life insurance company. My job was to program in Cobol an IBM 360 computer that had just a tiny fraction of the power of my modern cellphone, even though that nearly useless early computer took up one entire floor of a downtown office building. There was a war still going on in Vietnam that year, but it never had really hit home for me because the love of my life had not yet been drafted. And besides, what was the point of worrying about a war that was going on half a world away, when here in America we were just becoming aware of a vastly different kind of war that was going to make it impossible for any of us ever to have much of a future? In the spring of 1970, I was something brand-new for my staid old Boston life insurance company. I was then their leading ecological activist. I wrote articles for my company’s internal publication about how to conserve everything, so together we might somehow manage to barely save this planet. And that April, which was fifty-four years ago now, I participated in Boston’s first Earth Day.  

Back then, we did not believe that there ever would be a year 2024. Heck, even a viable year 2000 was hardly conceivable for us. Edward and I wanted children, so we were going to have children but we full-well knew that their lives would be different from and very much less than what we would have wanted for them. My beloved had just finished his residency when he was drafted, and it was a close thing because by then the Vietnam War was winding down. He was one of the last Berry-plan physicians to be caught in the draft, which delayed our wedding by another year.

What brings all of this to mind this week is my having come across a folder of materials from that long-ago time as I was searching through some very old files. And I was struck as I went through that folder by how much what is going on now in this country must be damaging so many of the minds of today’s young people, just as was my own youthful mind distorted by Vietnam, and by the suddenly prominent ecological terrors which were pummeling us with our severely damaged future. Back then, we assumed that the ecological mess that was about to fall on all our heads would be an unavoidable apocalyptic tragedy.

I am going to lay it all out for you now. But first, please allow me this little impassioned digression. I am not taking a political side here. But having found myself briefly back in 1970 has put me again close to the Civil Rights era in the US. Which makes me forcefully realize how terrible it is for today’s young Americans to be raging antisemites now, as so many of them apparently are, to my amazement and to my disgust. Can you believe what you are seeing in the news? Lots of otherwise normal young Americans are suddenly antisemitic Nazi pigs and bullies! Even though soon they will horribly realize that never again in their lives will they be able to bear to be inside any room which contains an uncovered mirror. For them to be shouting some of the things that they are shouting at their Jewish classmates now is the precise equivalent of their shouting “Ni**er!” at black people. How can they not realize that?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the greatest American of the twentieth century. My high school and college years were the years when he and many less prominent heroes marched for and at last won racial justice. They won racial justice for every American, forevermore! How have all these college students so quickly and easily forgotten that fact? To see precisely the same racial hatred that distorted the faces of nasty racists fifty years ago now on the faces of these viciously antisemitic college students chanting ugly Hamas slogans at their Jewish classmates turns my stomach. It horrifies me. And it breaks my heart. They know not what they do!  

Okay. End of digression. What I want to talk about today, my dear ones, is prophesy, and the wisdom and balance that a little time and distance can provide. I had altogether forgotten that back in 1970, we were certain that there could be no future. Or at least, there could be no possible future in which you and I would want to rear our children. The experts had convinced us of that fact, and who were we to tell them they were wrong? I am going to give you a summary of confident predictions from some of the greatest experts of 1970, the people who truly knew their stuff, and I am going to ask you please to read these items thoughtfully. Pay special attention to the dates by which all of these calamities were certain to happen:

  • “The Great Die-Off”! “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” Paul Ehrlich confidently declared in the April 1970 issue of Mademoiselle. “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years [by 1980].” “Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born,” wrote Ehrlich in a 1969 essay titled “Eco-Catastrophe! “By…[1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.” Ehrlich sketched out his most alarmist scenario for the 1970 Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in “the Great Die-Off.”
  • Worldwide Famine! Peter Gunter, a North Texas State University professor, wrote in 1970, “Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China, the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions…. By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.”
  • Air Pollution! In January 1970, Life reported, “Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, [1980] urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….” Ecologist Kenneth Watt told Time that, “At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.” Paul Ehrlich chimed in, predicting in 1970 that “air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.” Ehrlich sketched a scenario in which 200,000 Americans would die in 1973 during “smog disasters” in New York and Los Angeles.
  • Reduced Life Expectancy! Paul Ehrlich warned in the May 1970 issue of Audubon that DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbons “may have substantially reduced the life expectancy of people born since 1945.” Ehrlich warned that Americans born since 1946…now had a life expectancy of only 49 years, and he predicted that if current patterns continued, Americans’ life expectancy would reach 42 years by 1980, when it might level out. (Note: According to the most recent CDC report, life expectancy in the US is now 76.4 years).
  • No More Oil or Minerals! Ecologist Kenneth Watt declared, “By the year 2000 if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’” Harrison Brown, a scientist at the National Academy of Sciences, published a chart in Scientific American that looked at metal reserves and estimated that humanity would totally run out of copper shortly after 2000. Lead, zinc, tin, gold, and silver would be gone before 1990.
  • No More Wild Animals! Sen. Gaylord Nelson wrote in Look, “Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years [by 1995], somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.” Barry Commoner predicted that decaying organic pollutants would use up all of the oxygen in America’s rivers, causing freshwater fish to suffocate. In 1975, Paul Ehrlich predicted that “since more than nine-tenths of the original tropical rainforests will be removed in most areas within the next 30 years or so [by 2005], it is expected that half of the organisms in these areas will vanish with it.”
  • New Ice Age! Kenneth Watt warned about a pending Ice Age in a speech. “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years,” he declared. “If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an Ice Age.”

Even though we were told repeatedly back in 1970 that each of these calamities was absolutely unavoidable, not one of the disasters that haunted our nightmares in 1970 has ever happened. What changed our future so unexpectedly and so wonderfully? Well, a few big miracles rapidly came along. For one thing, considerably improved living conditions in the third world during the seventies and eighties reduced birth rates suddenly and dramatically worldwide. And what was then called “the green revolution” of new and better food-plant species and more advanced growing methods made for much bigger and better-quality harvests, especially of rice, as early as the mid-seventies. And that combination of sharply reduced population growth and much better and more abundant food harvests together averted the worldwide famine conditions that had been so confidently expected. A move away from dictatorships and toward more economic freedoms in some countries helped as well, as did new discoveries of oil and basic minerals that had then been thought to be in very short supply. In the early eighties, Ronald Reagan cut US income taxes substantially, and he thereby began, and Bill Clinton then fostered, what became a twenty-five-year economic boom in America that enabled this nation to spread some of its wealth to the poorer parts of the world. A very happy turn toward global warming kept creeping glaciers from taking over the northern hemisphere, and rain forest conservation efforts, and efforts to reduce air pollution worldwide each also played their respective parts. My goodness, when I was a young child, I can recall that nearly every city in this country could be spotted from a distance because it had a mushroom cloud of smog above it! You know, come to think of it, perhaps we have 1970’s Earth Day clarion calls to thank, at least in part, for many of these miracles after all.

I do think, though, that our having lived through all those strident 1970 alarms has made many of us who remember that year reluctant to worry very much whenever the next big government-touted crisis comes along. We took the coming ice age very seriously back then! But the much later advent of “global warming,” which has apparently saved us from having to open our front doors on some much later morning to find that a creeping glacier has taken over our front yards? Not so much. My generation has already been there. So we assume now that we won’t need to make extreme global-warming-inspired changes to our own lifestyles until those who fly to Davos each year on private jets for their global-warming chats take the threat of global warming seriously enough that they feel the need to start to fly commercial. And maybe we’ll just wait and begin to worry about global warming ourselves when Al Gore and Barack Obama find it necessary to put their oceanfront homes on the market.  

I asked my wonderful Thomas how we might best end this post. And he answered me with a sentence that his earlier incarnation wrote two hundred and eight years ago, almost to the day. These are wise words indeed!

“How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened!” Thomas Jefferson wrote to John Adams in April of 1816, in an extremely long letter on this same topic of doomsayers and prophets of certain catastrophes which then never see the light of day. As Jefferson points out in his letter to Adams that was written barely a decade before his and Adams’s deaths both occurred on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, he himself was always hopeful, always sanguine and cheerful about the future. As indeed he should have been. After all, it was Thomas Jefferson who penned these sacred words which begin the American Declaration of Independence, and these words have well stood the test of time. Thomas Jefferson wrote these words which every college student in America should be especially keeping in mind this spring: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

… Raindrops keep falling on my head,
But that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turning red.
Crying’s not for me!
‘Cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complaining.
Because I’m free. Nothing’s worrying me!

– Burt F. Bacharach (1928-2023), from “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” (1969)

Roberta Grimes
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18 thoughts on “Slouching Toward Bethlehem

  1. Dear Roberta,

    Our Declaration of Independence provides truly eloquently stated requirements of Biblical stature that individual liberty is sacred, and that a Just government must serve its citizens, not tyranize them. I used the current tense, because it yet lives, despite the current weaponization of our Justice system and Intel Agencies to serve the personal interests of a horribly corrupt Administration. The new Nazi youth are tolerated for the sake of a minority of votes in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnessota.

    1. Ah, my dear wonderful Jack, so perfectly said! And yes, I haven’t been following the current election, but my husband is up on it, and I gather from him that the Nazi thing is centered in the middle west, where there is a large Muslim community? In any even, hatred of any group is wrong, no matter what the reason!

  2. An excellent post, Roberta! I remember the dire off-the-wall predictions made by the Club of Rome, which did a great job of instilling unfounded fears and accomplished nothing much else.

    Another problem are the so-called solutions, which mostly have their own unintended yet ill consequences. Like the enormous pollution and environmental damage caused by EVs, electric windmills and panels, for example. But it’s not politically correct to state facts, and neither is the many scientists and weather monitors and statisticians who are saying that global warming is not as portrayed by the mass media. Etc.

    I wasn’t aware of the neo-Nazis in reaction to the political climate in the USA, but am aware of the anti-semitism because of what’s happening in Palestine & Israel. The message of loving your enemy and praying for them hasn’t penetrated the hearts of the people there yet, if they ever will. The Middle East needs a Martin Luther King of their own.

    Meanwhile, I just carry the dream forward on my own, in my own capacity and by my own effort, “so help me God.”

    1. Oh yes, my beloved Adrian, the solutions to any problems so often cause distortions that are worse even than the problems they are intended to correct! Windmills, for example, tragically kill so very many birds. And I may be foolish, but I don’t at all see why a war in the middle east should necessarily require a rise in antisemitism here? And among children, for heaven’s sake? The very idea of that is absurd to me on its face!

  3. I was sorry to read about the digression here. I totally disagree, and firmly believe that Israel does not have a right to commit genocide(which is what they seem to be trying to do)NO ONE DOES!. We all have a right to demonstrate. I am an old man, not a college student, and treat others kindly and with respect as long as they do the same for me. I also abhor the fact that since I am for Palestine, those that disagree with me believe that I might as well have a swastika hanging around m neck! I have saved many of your past blogs to be read, and to be learned from , but this one I will delete.

    1. Oh my dear beautiful Jeff, to be perfectly clear because my plainly saying that I was not taking a side in a far away war was apparently not clear enough, my digression was NOT about Palestine and Israel. Not at all!!

      My digression was about American young people shouting virulent antisemitic slogans at other American young people. And only about that! It hit deeply home with me, because in my youth I heard precisely the same thing – young Americans hissing viciously racist slogans at other young Americans. It happened every night on my evening news!

      Now, my very dear Jeff, I sincerely believe that you yourself are not a racist. How ever you may feel about wars in other countries, surely you do not support American children shouting hate-filled racist slogans at one another?

  4. Hey Roberta, Hal David wrote the lyrics to Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head. Does he get any credit? I’m a songwriter. I do lyrics and music.
    I agree with Jeff.

    1. My dear Man, I took the songwriter credit from the footnote to the printed lyrics, so your colleague Mr. David had a poor publicist?

  5. Good morning Roberta, I am afraid that Jewish lives don’t matter much to Americans and their friends in the American media, the Left, and the Democratic Party. It’s okay to chant “Kill the Jews” now and everyone’s supposed to applaud if they want to be on the right side of TikTok history and keep their jobs in Higher Ed. No one is outraged about what happened on 10/7 or the fact that Israel is fighting an army that uses their own people as human shields. Remember, Jews, are supposed to go to ovens quietly. If they don’t, then they’re committing genocide when they choose to defend themselves and defeat an army that uses these tactics. Meanwhile, Islamists can protest and disrupt throughout Europe, chant for Sharia law to be imposed in London, Hamburg, Paris, etc, and the West is supposed to applaud in the name of DEI.

    1. Oh my dear wonderful Bill, Jewish lives do matter to very many of us. But we do rely on our government to be the line of first resort to protect all its innocent citizens, and the fact that simply isn’t happening in this situation is flat-out appalling!

  6. Dear Roberta, today’s post was impeccably timed. I agree with Bill. Never forget the Holocaust or Oct 7. These are paid ignorant protesters. Jack Hiller is spot on.

    1. Absolutely, dear beautiful Corinne! I agree with you – but the timing of course was not my own – it was Thomas’s. He is really sickened by what is going on!

  7. May God have mercy:
    On the Nazi who murdered Jews, Gypsies,and the lame;
    On the Hamas who placed infants in ovens, lit them on fire for theior parents to watch, and then beheaded the parents;
    On the sympathizers of the Nazi, and Hamas, and even write to encourage
    their brutality;
    On those who honor the Koran’s requirement to conquer and kill all infidels, including the Grand Mufti who was a Nazi collaborator.

    For perspective, consider that:
    ” The Muslims are now fighting to their death over a sliver of land in the Middle East. The entire land mass of the Middle East is 5,000,000 square miles. The state of Israel is 8,600 square miles. The amount of land that Israel occupies in the Middle East is one-tenth of one percent. “

    1. Oh my dear beautiful Jack, I have had an overwhelming week, including having to comfort one friend whose husband has just died and also the fact that a cousin who is like a sister to me is hospitalized, having nearly died, but still – no excuse. I am so sorry that it has taken me a whole week to respond to this absolutely amazing comment! So true, and so deeply wonderful! In addition, of course, the whole of what is now the land of Israel has belonged to the Jewish people for more than four thousand years, and when the nation of Israel was established there in 1948 post-Holocaust there were no “Palestinians” there as such, but the surrounding Arab nations moved some of their own people in quickly to try to force the Jews out. The rest, as they say, is very recent history. Thank you so much, my very dear Jack!

  8. Scientists who have studied the real causes of global warming, find that it is a natural occurrence and has been happening for hundreds of thousands of years, mostly due the precession of the equinoxes (i.e. Milankovitch Cycles) and as found in all the ice core samples from Vostek at the South Pole, Greenland, etc. They have found that a CO2 buildup ‘trail’s’ global warming and is not the cause of global warming. An inordinate increase of CO2 by mankind can make it worse. But the current CO2 level is a boon to plant growth. If it gets to a lot less, then there in will lie problems with the climate and our Earth. The nefarious powers that be are using this natural occurrence, allegedly caused by mankind, as a means to make us pay for it with the so-called carbon tax. Climate change is normal, and the records indicate that the Earth has experienced much higher temperatures than this in the past as well as many ice ages. The end of the last Ice Age occurred about 11700 years ago. We had smaller recurrent Ice Ages periodically after that time (the time of the Great Flood), maybe due to meteor strikes over the years. Our real history is being covered up so ‘they’ can stay in control. We have too many other Real problems to worry about like world wide pollution, nuclear power plants, the use of coal and oil and all the problems they cause, not using the zero energy technology that has been covered up by our government in order for the oil industry and coal industries to keep reaping record profits and the expense of mankind and our dear planet Gaia. I grew up in the time of Vietnam (my draft number was 255) and was ready to go to that false flag war, even though I knew it. But my father fought in WWII, Korea (at Pork Chop Hill) and trained soldiers for Vietnam. I believe in this great country and would’ve gone to war anyway. Fortunately, Nixon cancelled the draft early in 1973 when I graduated from High School. I grew up with the terror of the unknown and all the things that we were to worry about. And like Samuel Clemens said, ‘worrying about things that never happened’. Now there is an entire well-coordinated narrative concerning things to worry about again. Loss of our freedom, which I think is a real concern. Nuclear war, but I don’t think the aliens will allow it as they have shown the military that they can control all the nuclear missile sites at will, which has been proved in facilities in S. Dakota and elsewhere. I don’t think that is a real worry, although we have been very close with mistaken identity of potential war planes, accidents, etc. Now that is possible. The dying of our planet by radiation (Japan and the Pacific ocean), killing off the thermal cycling of our oceans, pollution, deforestation. We need to concentrate on radically changing our societies world wide, as our ignorance and egos will certainly be the death of us. This is a beautiful planet and so is our species. We are capable of such beauty in our music, architecture, art, science, compassion towards each other, and have much to give. That’s why God gave us such a beautiful world to work with and gave us free will. It is the free will of our collective consciousness that must be harnessed for good. That is the hard problem, not recognizing consciousness, but shedding our egos and realizing that WE are ALL ONE, forever interconnected, interdependent and have the spark of God within us all. I AM That I AM, always.

    1. Oh wow, my dear Scott, this is really amazing! Thank you so much! It deserves to be a whole post in itself, and not relegated to just a comment here!!

  9. Thank you Scott, I appreciate your perspective. It agrees for the most part with my thoughts concerning these interesting topics.

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