Sunday is Earth Day. Someone forgot to tell the Earthlings.
Most people will go about their affairs oblivious to the day’s significance because the day has no significance to them. We reserve holidays for days that are holy. A holiday invented by a politician seems more of an ephemeral reelection scam than an enduring rite of reflection.
Environmentalism begins with hygiene. This is lost on activists eschewing deodorant as a pollutant, showers as water wasters, and toilet paper as a luxury the planet can ill afford. Lacking the initial building block of a clean Earth—a clean body—environmentalists fail in their loftier goals. You can’t attract people by repulsing them.
The people expected to celebrate Earth Day are denigrated by it. This most explains the day’s insignificance. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day in 1970. He spent much of his remaining thirty-five years proclaiming that we could save the planet only by decimating its inhabitants. Naturally, people didn’t take to this anti-people position. Only an idea so screwy could make something as popular as the Earth so controversial a subject.
“By the time he died in 2005 at the age of 89, Nelson had become deeply disappointed with the wholesale retreat of the environmental establishment from advocating limits to population growth,” recalled Leon Kolankiewicz, an environmental scientist who worked closely with Earth Day’s founder. To this end, Nelson advocated abortion, governmentally-organized family planning, and severe immigration restrictions. The founder of Earth Day’s overriding message was that there were too many people.
Nelson dedicated his Senate career to making life harder for those who make our lives easier. In January 1970, in anticipation of the first Earth Day, the Wisconsin Democrat proposed an eleven-point program that included bans on pesticides, detergents, and even cars. Point 2 of the speech bluntly promised to: “Phase out the internal combustion automobile engine by January 1, 1978, unless it can meet national emissions standards by that time.” The cornerstone of the ambitious proposal was a constitutional amendment guaranteeing Americans an “inalienable right to a decent environment.”
But did an indecent environment mean insect infestations of crops or pesticides protecting them? The means of transportation leaving a labyrinth of horse mess on our streets or emitting exhaust fumes into our air? Dirty clothes unsoiled by the most effective laundry soap or detergents cleaning our garments but leaving their residue in our waters? Clearly, Nelson’s conception of a “decent environment” was debatable, making a Constitutional guarantee of something as vague as a “decent environment” debatable, too.
The humanist’s anti-human agenda relied on the most persuasive of all arguments: do as I say or you are going to die. Nelson announced in that 1970 Senate speech, “Reasonable scientists have predicted that accelerating rates of air pollution could become so serious by the 1980s that many people may be forced on the worst days to wear breathing helmets to survive outdoors.” He cited Paul Ehrlich, whom he calls an “eminent California ecologist,” to the effect that the oceans would be poisoned out of life within a few decades. He repeats the head of the Smithsonian’s warning that by 1995 three-quarters of the animal species in existence would become extinct. Strangely, Nelson expected listeners to believe that there would be less of us if we wouldn’t accept that there should be less of us.
One might dismiss the Senator’s early ’70s enthusiasms as a man caught up in the zeitgeist if his public pronouncements hadn’t grown increasingly crankish. “What will America be like when the population doubles from about 280 million to over 520 million within the next 75 to 80 years or sooner?,” Nelson asked at a September 20, 2001 speech at Michigan State. “If we permit that to happen, it will have a dramatic and pervasive impact on almost all aspects of our living condition.”
The world’s population on the forty-third Earth Day is double the world’s population on the first Earth Day. Rather than ushering in Doomsday, more people have meant a more livable Earth. Life expectancy rates in the U.S. have ballooned by about ten years for men and women since the first Earth Day. Other parts of the world have experienced even greater gains. Revolutions in travel and communications have made the globe a smaller ball. Farming techniques opposed by extreme environmentalists have shifted the conversation from “Will we have enough to eat?” to “Will we eat what’s healthy?” The more, the merrier.
An Earth Day that celebrates mankind would be an Earth Day worth celebrating. One that mourns people is an Earth Day worth skipping.
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