A method wherein journalists attempt to terrify viewers into endorsing each costly environmental prescription is to continually – and wrongly – predict the apocalypse is simply across the nook. Fifteen years in the past this week, the not-yet-disgraced Matt Lauer did precisely that with a two hour particular outsourced to the SyFy Channel: Countdown to Doomsday. (We’re nonetheless right here so the countdown should be persevering with.) 

On June 14, 2006, the then-NBC host declared, “We’re the issue.” Demanding quick motion, Lauer warned that something much less would imply the top of humanity:



In the present day, life on Earth is disappearing sooner than the times when dinosaurs breathed their final, however for a really completely different motive….Us homo sapiens are turning out to be as harmful a pressure as any asteroid. Earth’s intricate net of ecosystems thrived for tens of millions of years as pure paradises, till we got here alongside, paved paradise, and put up a parking zone. Our assault on nature is killing off the very issues we rely on for our personal lives….The stark actuality is that there are just too many people, and we devour manner an excessive amount of, particularly right here at residence….It’s going to take a large international effort to make issues proper, however the options are usually not a secret: management inhabitants, recycle, cut back consumption, develop inexperienced applied sciences.

As Media Analysis Middle Vice President Dan Gainor pointed out when the special aired, Lauer adopted the drained (and at all times unsuitable) trope about over inhabitants:

Had this been the Historical past Channel as an alternative of the SciFi Channel, somebody might need identified to Lauer that declare has been round for greater than 200 years. It traces again to 1798 and Thomas Malthus whose work “An Essay on the Precept of Inhabitants” has been confirmed unsuitable because the world inhabitants has grown.

In 2008, ABC aired a paranoid particular known as Earth 2100 and declared that New York Metropolis could be beneath water by 2015. (Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.) In a flashback to that particular’s unsuitable predictions, I wrote:

The section included supposedly prophetic movies, resembling a young person declaring, “It is June eighth, 2015. One carton of milk is $12.99.” (On the precise June 8, 2015, a gallon of milk price, on common, $3.39.) One other clip featured this prediction for the present 12 months: “Gasoline reached over $9 a gallon.” (In actuality, gasoline prices a mean of $2.75.)

However don’t fret, journalist will preserve predicting environmental doom. They usually’ll doubtless preserve being unsuitable. 

For extra examples from our FLASHBACK collection, which we name the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.

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