Social Mood Conference | Socionomics Foundation

By Robert Folsom | September 6, 2012

I just did some digging into “scare” stories from the 1970s, and was blown away by how much I’d forgotten (yes, I was there). There was plenty to be afraid of, dear reader:

The ozone hole. Overpopulation. Food shortages. The energy crisis. Global cooling. Global warming. Acid rain. Stagflation. Swine flu. Nuclear meltdown/Three Mile Island/China Syndrome. DDT (banned in ’72). PCBs (banned in ’79). Red dye #2 (banned in ’76).

My high school biology teacher was a vociferous environmentalist, so all these years later I actually do recall the preeminent scare tome of the decade, Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb. But I was fuzzy on the details so I looked that up too:

The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.

In turn, said Ehrlich, the United States must make a relentless push for population control. And he did mean “relentless” —

When [India’s Minister of Family Planning] suggested sterilizing all Indian males with three or more children, we should have applied pressure on the Indian government to go ahead with the plan. We should have volunteered logistic support in the form of helicopters, vehicles, and surgical instruments. We should have sent doctors to aid in the program by setting up centers for training para-medical personnel to do vasectomies. Coercion? Perhaps, but coercion in a good cause.

Now, you can call this a screaming case of negative social mood-related authoritarianism, and I’ll say “amen.”

But that’s not to say Ehrlich was dismissed as a crackpot. At the time he was a tenured professor at Stanford, and later received a MacArthur Fellowship (the “Genius Grant”).

And, of course, all of the above speaks directly to social mood in 2012 — starting with the list at the top. Each of the threats to humans and the environment has reappeared (and/or very likely will), via the many out-of-proportion scare stories we’ve all read and heard in recent years.

Dire predictions regarding “climate change” and “peak oil” are just as extreme as anything from the 1970s, and “solutions” from eminent professors are just as authoritarian as Paul Ehrlich’s. And whereas bestsellers in the 1970s included titles like The Late, Great Planet Earth, the March 18, 2012 New York Times bestseller list sported this gem (#5 hardcover nonfiction):

Becoming China’s Bitch: And Nine More Catastrophes We Must Avoid Right Now

The apocalypse is not coming to a disaster near you — even though this is a time of negative social mood. And there are real threats ahead that you’ll want to know more about; Alan Hall’s Nov. 2009 article about eugenics, for example. It’s available in the archive that’s open via a subscription to The Socionomist.

If you have a thought about what you’ve read, speak up in the comments section below or on our Twitter feed.

Andrea Dibben contributed research.