Mr. Tillerman's last writing project was about predicting the future, or at least what sailing might be like in the future.
As it happens, before he announced that writing project, I was preparing a post about a very scary attempt to predict the future that had gone horribly wrong. For me, it was horrible not because the prediction was wrong, but because it has turned out to be horribly right.
I found this historical curiosity while checking some facts for a post I did a while back on the 1964 New York World's Fair, of all things. (Hmm, what kind of sailing blog is this, anyway?)
If you'll recall from that post, the 1964 World's Fair was brimming with hope and optimism about what was thought to be a bright future. Many exhibits tried to show us what life might be like in that future. But none tried harder than the Fair's most popular exhibit of all - the humongous General Motors Futurama - housed in a three-acre building on an eight-acre site. Over a two-year run, the exhibit attracted 26 million people.
GM, one of our nation's largest producers of consumer products, at the height of its power, with its finger presumably on the pulse of American tastes, was proudly showing us where it thought we should be going.
So what was so horrible about what they were forecasting?
Well, among other things, they predicted the destruction of the world's tropical rain forests. Those forests would be cut down, paved over, and 'civilized' cities of consumers would be built where the forests had been. But the great minds at GM were boasting about how this would be one of mankind's greatest triumphs.
Throughout the whole presentation they see man's role as the great 'tamer' and harvester of the world's 'endless bounty'. In the rain forests, in the oceans, in the desert, in the arctic - even in outer space - man is the great conqueror and consumer. The natural world exists to serve the needs of man - to be endlessly exploited.
Here is the transcript of the part about how we will 'tame' the 'jungles' of the world:
In tropical waters fabulous coral reefs lead us back to the land. An equatorial land where nature flourishes more abundantly and in greater variety than in any other region of the world. Yet nowhere else have man's productive efforts been so challenged and for so long.
Now technology has found a way to penetrate and control the wild profusion of this wonder world. A jungle road is built in one continuous operation.
First, a searing ray of light - a laser beam - cuts through the trees.Then a giant machine, a factory on wheels, grinds up the stumps and jungle growth, sets the firm foundations, forms the surface slabs, sets them in place and the roadway bed is paved.
These forest highways now are bringing to the innermost depths of the tropic world the goods and materials of progress and prosperity creating productive communities that can enter profitably the markets of the world and offering to us all enchanting tours through the storybook forests of tropic lands.
Yikes! I guess the Cadillacs of 2024 were all going to have mahogany dashboards and we could drive them through the rain forests on wide superhighways once we got all of those pesky trees out of the way.
If you think I'm making this up, here's a video of the whole ghastly thing. You can use the scroll button at the bottom to advance to around 3:45, where the part about the 'jungle' starts.
If that's not shocking enough, they describe how the world's oceans might 'serve' us once we get our technology geared up for the big harvest of the future. Besides drilling for more oil in places we couldn't reach before, we'll be able to feast on the ocean's 'boundless' supply of seafood.
If you've somehow missed the news this week, you may want to flick on CNN to check out how well our quest for offshore oil is going.
And for a modern update on just how 'boundless' that seafood supply is turning out to be, take a look at JP's post on the documentary film End of the Line, which describes in frightening detail how threatened most of the world's fisheries currently are.
From the perspective of 2010, I guess there are some other signs that the geniuses at GM may have missed the mark a bit in predicting the realities of the future.
One thing they failed to notice that would somewhat affect their own future was a small car company that was selling it's first models made just for the US market in 1965. The cars were small and simple, but sturdy and efficient little sedans that, even in 1965, were getting 30 mpg. In that year, the upstart company sold about 6000 cars here.
They had a name that sounded a little funny to American ears. But, in time, most of us would learn how to pronounce it. The accent is on the second syllable: