When I was a kid growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s, the Cold War was in full flower. The geopolitical chess and rhetoric went back and forth between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, both of which held nuclear arsenals some claimed were sufficient to destroy the world multiple times.
A survivable nuclear war was an accepted concept back then. School kids went through drills for nuclear attacks just like for schoolhouse fires. Some families even invested the time and money to build and stock underground bunkers where they could hole up to wait out the inferno.
Because we lived about 20 miles from Ellsworth Air Force Base, east of Rapid City, SD, folks probably didn’t harbor much hope of survivability. Home to a B52 bomber wing, the base was suspected of being a primary target in a preemptive strike. Of course, that area of western South Dakota was ringed by lots of underground missile silos, too. In fact, the late Sen. George McGovern (D-SD) used to say that if the Dakotas ever seceded from the Union, the two states would constitute the third-largest nuclear power in the world.
All the while, armaments continued to grow more powerful and fearful. The first bomb dropped in Japan was estimated as equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT. A few years later, the first hydrogen bomb was pegged at releasing the energy of 10 million tons. Later, a Russian megabomb was said to pack the wallop of 50 million tons of TNT.
Back in those days, the news was full of technological breakthroughs, not at the dizzying pace of today, of course, but the sky seemed to be the limit as the American economy hummed, and the U.S. and the Soviets reached for the promise of space. Regional conflicts continued to percolate around the world, with the U.S. and the USSR generally supporting opposing sides. Over all of them seemed to hang the potential for escalation to a nuclear confrontation.
Needless to say, the threat was real – not perceived. For instance, I remember the angst – in adults and kids alike – as we followed news coverage of the 1962 faceoff over Soviet missiles in Cuba. And when the Soviet Union finally imploded in 1991, we learned just how close the Soviets had come in the 1980s to pulling the trigger on a preemptive strike on the West.
Rising anxiety levels in youth
I bring this up because I read an article recently that reported child psychiatrists, psychologists and educators are seeing rising anxiety among today’s youth, thanks to all the doomsday talk about the destruction of the planet.
According to the article in the Toronto Globe And Mail: “Unlike adults who can put their heads in the sand about what we have been doing to our planet, these kids are very aware of what’s going on,” says Chris Saade, co-director of the Olive Branch Center, a grief/wellness counseling firm. “Because of the Web, it’s not hidden any more. Children often ask me questions that we, as adults, try to evade: What is going to happen to the human race?”
Really, this is what we’ve done to our kids? Over climate change? Well, actually the movement started out as "global cooling," then morphed into "global warming." But unfortunately for its adherents, the earth hasn't warmed for 15 years, so it became "climate change." This week, the White House rechristened the apocalyptic phenomenon as "climate disruption."
In March, 28 U.S. senators staged an all-night talkathon on climate change, not to talk about solutions, but to crank up the fear mill. Apparently some fearmongering is still needed among those who watch C-SPAN, which is about the only audience that saw it. But grownups don't constitute as much of a captive audience as school children.
In fact, Gallup polling indicates that less than a quarter of Americans say they worry about climate change a great deal. Despite all the hot air and resources expended, climate change is near the bottom of a list of 15 issues Americans were asked to rate in importance by a Gallup survey in March. The only topic that drew lower than climate change was race relations. More than four in 10 say the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated in the news. And one in four are solidly skeptical about it.
The unceasing drumbeat of the perils of climate change continue. The Obama administration fanned the gloom with its release this week of a national climate assessment (NCA), whose dire predictions were characterized by skeptics as "more political than scientific." The NCA report is central to a coming regulatory push by the administration that intends to bypass Congress.
What's plain is that alarmists are playing the long game, and if the rising anxiety levels among our young people regarding the environment are any indication, it seems to be working. Gallup reports that young Americans aged 18 to 29 are more worried about global warming than older adults, particularly those 50 and older. “If these young people hold on to these attitudes as they age, and if future generations of Americans hold the same levels of higher concern, then the nation's overall levels of worry about warming will rise,” Gallup says.
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