Tuesday, September 24, 2019

What My High School Taught Me About the End of the World in 1994

Not long ago I was going through some old files where I discovered some of my high school writings. Among these was a brief overview about a class I took in my senior year called "The Future." This was an elective course I took as a senior in 1994 because I thought the subject matter was somewhat interesting, and I wanted to take as easy a class as possible for my final semester, which also included watching three or four movies.

What I found unfortunate about this class was the teacher. Despite being Greek and the son of one of the most distinguished Orthodox priests of the Greek Archdiocese, he was a hardcore atheist. When he was my Social Studies teacher, he would spend significant time talking about how stupid it is to believe in God, and he would deny the historical existence of Jesus. Once he asked on a test who was the founder of Christianity. I wrote down Jesus. He marked it wrong, because he considered the Apostle Paul as the founder of Christianity. With his background we should have gotten along great, but he seemed to dislike me because I reminded him of that background which he seemed to totally disavow. But such atheistic rants were common in my high school, so common that I would often skip my classes, not being interested in attending what I called "a communist daycare center."

Besides Social Studies, this teacher also taught three electives. One of them was called "The Bible." Another one was called "Philosophy 101." The third elective was, as I mentioned, "The Future." I never bothered to take the first two, because I knew I would have flunked them. The atheistic rants in those classes would have been too much for me, and God only knows how twisted of a perspective he applied to those two otherwise venerable subjects. But as I said, I mainly took "The Future" because it looked easy and I wanted to see some movies. However, this teacher did teach me something by the way he taught. What I learned back then is something that continually is confirmed for me as I get older in years. An atheistic mindset struggles with faith (why else would he teach a class on the Bible?), struggles to understand the world without faith (why would an atheist teach a philosophy course?), and requires an eschatology to have some purpose to their existence (hence, "The Future").

In the class called "The Future," we had one textbook called Future Shock, a 1970 book by the futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler. The Tofflers argued that society is undergoing an enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a "super-industrial society." This change overwhelms people. They believed the accelerated rate of technological and social change left people disconnected and suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation" — future shocked. The Tofflers stated that the majority of social problems are symptoms of future shock. In their discussion of the components of such shock, they popularized the term "information overload." The book is a very pessimistic view of the future, designed to instill fear.

Based on my notes, the four main subjects my teacher especially focused on was overpopulation, landfills, the ozone layer and nuclear war. My teacher was convinced that the world would most likely end because one of these things would grow too out of hand that it would bring about a great change to the world leading to the apocalypse. We had one assignment: make a twenty minute presentation on one of the subjects we were studying. I chose to make a presentation on the depletion of the ozone layer. To drive home the point of the serious dangers of the depletion of the ozone layer, I showed the class the famous cover of the February 17, 1992 edition of Time Magazine titled "Vanishing Ozone." I also presented a bunch of other articles from the New York Times and other such newspapers and publications. The conclusion of my presentation was to stop using styrofoam and hairspray and as little of your air conditioner as possible, and we just might save the planet, or at least save some people from getting skin cancer. It was for this presentation that I even read the ridiculous claims from Al Gore's 1992 book Earth in the Balance that, thanks to the Antarctic ozone hole, "hunters now report finding blind rabbits; fisherman catch blind salmon."

Fortunately, the ozone layer scare went away, and in 2014 it was even reported that the ozone layer is on track to be fully restored again by 2050. What happened? As far as ozone depletion is concerned, the thinning of the ozone layer that occurred throughout the 1980's apparently stopped in the early 1990's. Some like to say it was because of environmental measures undertaken around the world, but such measures could not have reversed the process in just a few years. No doubt we had a real problem, but what we have found out is that it was overhyped.

The parallels with global warming are striking. Again we face a real but greatly overhyped environmental problem. In both cases, virtually everything the public has been told that sounds terrifying isn't true -- and what is true isn't particularly terrifying. But doomsayers such as Gore simply soldier on. His claims of blind animals from ozone depletion have been replaced by equally dubious assertions in his other ridiculous book An Inconvenient Truth, including predictions of a massive sea level rise that would wipe away south Florida and other coastal areas.

These days we read about children being indoctrinated with climate change hysteria, to the point where schools are making children angry at their parents and government for passing down to them the apocalyptic visions conjured by their teachers, and not doing anything about, thus revealing their lack of care for their children. Not only this, but their anxiety has grown to such an extent that they often can't sleep at night. And because the future has been painted so bleak for them, they have now decided to forego having children out of fear of what they will face. It seems like I wasn't alone in attending a communist daycare center, though my high school seems pretty tame in comparison. At least I chose to take a class covering these subjects, but now it has become required curriculum.

Truth be told, this elective course had no affect on me. The scariest thing in the class was watching the movie The Day After, which chronicled a scenario if America was struck by a nuclear bomb. But even this seemed like a remote possibility by that point, with the fall of the Soviet Union having occurred some years earlier. But my teacher pressed on that the future indeed is a bleak one, and even if we solved one problem, another one would soon rise to take its place. And this was the eschatological apocalyptic vision taught to me in high school in 1994 that was supposed to cause me anxiety, but I decided to be optimistic instead, believing in the real scientific data, and for many who choose to be pessimistic, people like me are the most dangerous people in the world.