(Dan here….late to Angry Bear from Econospeak)
by Barkley Rosser
Yes, today is the 53rd Earth Day. I participated in the first one when it was held in Madison, Wisconsin on April 22, 1970, just as the environmental movement was really getting going. There were observances elsewhere around the US, but Madison had pride of place as the person most responsible for getting Earth Day going was then Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, who was also one of the first senators to oppose the Vietnam War. Those were the days. While we face an increasing problem of mounting global warming and cutbacks of environmental regulations and enforcement in various areas, much has been achieved, with substantial reductions of various kinds of pollution around the world in the slightly more than half a century since Earth Day began to be celebrated. There is much still to do, but there is also much to celebrate. Air and water quality are much improved in places ranging from Gary to Cleveland and on.
As I was in very leftist Madison back then, I remember what may now seem ironic. There was considerable unhappiness on the part of many on the Left there at the time of that first Earth Day celebration. April 22 also happens to be the birthday of Lenin, and that one was his centennial birthday. Proper communists or strong socialists were supposed to be remembering him and honoring him on that particular day by focusing on opposing the Vietnam War and battling for workers’ rights rather than calling for limiting automobile emissions, with some even claiming that this celebration was a plot by Richard Nixon to distract us all from the Vietnam War. As it was, the Kent State killings would happen only about two weeks after that first Earth Day, so indeed the anti-Vietnam War movement was near its peak.
It is rather curious that now many on the Right have come to be overtly anti-environmental. Climate change is supposedly a hoax. Greens are “watermelons,” green on the outside but red on the inside, in this case, the old meaning of red as meaning leftist socialist rather than US Republican. The environment is increasingly becoming yet another issue where partisan divides and false narratives spouted on Fox News and various social media make it hard to even have reasonable discussions of these issues.
OTOH, there has also appeared a dark side of the environmental movement, still small, but unpleasant. This is the environmental fascism movement that uses concern about environmental quality to oppose immigration to the US. This movement tends to align itself with openly racist elements that also drive the anti-immigrant movement on the Right. While this may seem to be an unpleasant new phenomenon, among the criticisms by leftists back in 1970 of environmentalism was the reliance on Malthus by many environmentalists, who was indeed a reactionary, with many arguing that the move to limit population growth was a racist effort, which it probably was for some involved in that. It remains an unpleasant fact that Hitler was an advocate of conservation, which he associated with his emphasis on “blood and soil,” and that among his followers were students of students of Ernst Haeckel, the man who coined the word “ecology.” Needless to say, the environmental movement needs to resist this potential tendency.
Anyway, for today, have a Happy Earth Day!