On this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, I wanted to share some thoughts and reflect on the current status of environmentalism today.
Environmentalism, in its current form, is largely unsustainable as a philosophy with its statist bonafides and its unreasonable demands. It calls upon us to radically alter our lifestyles, to forgo many luxuries we enjoy, and to adopt more centrally-planned policies for the sake of Mother Earth.
If we, us pesky conservatives, dare question even a smidgeon of information being presented we are verbally tarred and feathered as dissenters, deniers, and Flat Earthers without proof to back such ludicrous accusations.
Mind you, those loudly preaching these tenets fail to abide by the standards they’ve laid out. They shame detractors from the comfort of their gas-guzzling private jets or multi-million dollar mansions. It’s no wonder conservatives and libertarians have cast a skeptical eye on status quo environmentalism…
Earth Day Origins
Some details about Earth Day’s origins will greatly unsettle fellow conservatives and even non-conservatives.
Perhaps by coincidence, it falls on Bolshevik Revolutionary and terrorist V.I. Lenin’s birthday—who was born on this day 150 years ago. If you recall, the New York Times lauded him for inspiring “eco-warriors” in their 2017 ‘Red Century” series. So maybe not coincidence after all? I’ll let you be the judge of that.
From a historical perspective, Earth Day largely came to be following a culmination of environmental crises and events.
First came the publication of the 1962 New York Times bestselling book Silent Spring authored by Rachel Carson. The book drew awareness to the dangers of pollution and its effects on public health—an issue that still concerns people today. It also prompted the DDT ban, which has been subsequently questioned in wake of recent malaria outbreaks.
Second, political support for Earth Day was building in the halls of Congress. Many lawmakers wanted to ride the coattails of the anti-Vietnam War protests to, in turn, build momentum for environmentalism. Here’s its history explained more:
Senator Gaylord Nelson, a junior senator from Wisconsin, had long been concerned about the deteriorating environment in the United States. Then in January 1969, he and many others witnessed the ravages of a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Inspired by the student anti-war movement, Senator Nelson wanted to infuse the energy of student anti-war protests with an emerging public consciousness about air and water pollution. Senator Nelson announced the idea for a teach-in on college campuses to the national media, and persuaded Pete McCloskey, a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, to serve as his co-chair. They recruited Denis Hayes, a young activist, to organize the campus teach-ins and they choose April 22, a weekday falling between Spring Break and Final Exams, to maximize the greatest student participation.
Recognizing its potential to inspire all Americans, Hayes built a national staff of 85 to promote events across the land and the effort soon broadened to include a wide range of organizations, faith groups, and others. They changed the name to Earth Day, which immediately sparked national media attention, and caught on across the country. Earth Day inspired 20 million Americans — at the time, 10% of the total population of the United States — to take to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate against the impacts of 150 years of industrial development which had left a growing legacy of serious human health impacts. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment and there were massive coast-to-coast rallies in cities, towns, and communities.
Third, there were dark elements that befell Earth Day that still linger today. One of the self-proclaimed founders of Earth Day, Ira Einhorn, murdered and composted his girlfriend. NBC explained:
A self-proclaimed environmental activist, Einhorn made a name for himself among ecological groups during the 1960s and ’70s by taking on the role of a tie-dye-wearing ecological guru and Philadelphia’s head hippie. With his long beard and gap-toothed smile, Einhorn — who nicknamed himself “Unicorn” because his German-Jewish last name translates to “one horn” —advocated flower power, peace and free love to his fellow students at the University of Pennsylvania. He also claimed to have helped found Earth Day.
But the charismatic spokesman who helped bring awareness to environmental issues and preached against the Vietnam War — and any violence — had a secret dark side. When his girlfriend of five years, Helen “Holly” Maddux, moved to New York and broke up with him, Einhorn threatened that he would throw her left-behind personal belongings onto the street if she didn’t come back to pick them up.
And so on Sept. 9, 1977, Maddux went back to the apartment that she and Einhorn had shared in Philadelphia to collect her things, and was never seen again. When Philadelphia police questioned Einhorn about her mysterious disappearance several weeks later, he claimed that she had gone out to the neighborhood co-op to buy some tofu and sprouts and never returned.
It wasn’t until 18 months later that investigators searched Einhorn’s apartment after one of his neighbors complained that a reddish-brown, foul-smelling liquid was leaking from the ceiling directly below Einhorn’s bedroom closet. Inside the closet, police found Maddux’s beaten and partially mummified body stuffed into a trunk that had also been packed with Styrofoam, air fresheners and newspapers.
Fast forward to today: 50 years later, and you see different strains of environmentalism out there today.
In radical left circles you see elements of ’60’s-style radical environmentalism thriving as Jane Fonda types maintain platforms and subject themselves to arrests to protest climate change.
As a party, Democrats tout their monopoly on the issue and accuse their opponents of being insufficiently environmentally-friendly. The majority of them have sadly begun to champion disastrous policies like the Green New Deal. As with other issues, there’s no room for deviation.
In the Republican Party, more viewpoint diversity on environmentalism and conservation is greatly witnessed. Some are more inclined to concede the climate change issue to the Left but with more nascent platitudes of so-called free market tones, or support carbon taxes and subsidies for traditional and alternative energy sources. Others, however, believe policy prescriptions should be more decentralized and attuned to state and local concerns.
As for overlap, some members in House Natural Resources Committee and Western Caucus, however, do advocate for good bipartisan bills regarding Endangered Species Act reforms, the Restore Our Parks Act to reduce the National Park Service’s deferred maintenance backlog, and forest management, just to name a few.
What Conservative-Minded Environmentalism Should Look Like
Conventional, status quo environmentalism is outdated, statist, and antithetical to our way of life.
It should also be noted and established that conservation isn’t preservation. Status quo environmentalism frowns upon multi-use management of public lands and generally discourages hunting as a means to promote wildlife conservation and bolster funding, for example.
As Katie Pavlich noted on my podcast this week, conservation—not environmentalism—is what conservatives should subscribe to as conventional environmentalist thought is preservation-minded in nature.
Many believe conservation should employ a top-down, big government approach to maintain our precious wildlife and natural resources. That couldn’t be more obtuse or far-fetched. History shows us centrally-planned economies ruin environments more than market-based ones.
Instead, conservatives should advocate for more free market, limited government, and yes, private, solutions to today’s pressing environmental problems. Groups that excel well at this are CFACT, PERC, CEI, and IER.
What is free-market, limited government environmentalism and by extension, conservation? It entails a reverence for federalism—entrusting states and localities to tackle issues where federal government need not apply nor feel it imperative to get involved. It entails developing tailor-made or individualized solutions depending on demand, region, or need. It entails maintaining and forging stakeholder relations by giving a voice to forgotten players like landowners and ranchers. It also calls upon those involved to build and maintain public-private partnerships when needed and required.
A conservative vision for conservation isn’t some all-encompassing Congressional plan that coaxes Americans into going carbon neutral by 2045 or some arbitrary deadline—which ultimately proves more costly and is impractical to implement. It’s not calling for the elimination of oil and gas jobs or pushing a Green New Deal-like bill. It’s not ignoring nuclear as a viable clean energy option. It’s not forgoing multiple-use management of public lands. It’s not calling on your fellow man or woman to radically alter their diet or abandon free enterprise.
The solutions I mentioned, when implemented, can be effective policy prescriptions to ensure conservation success today.
Why I’m a Conservationist
As an angler and new hunter, I’ve always been drawn to natural settings. Growing up in California, I recall my earliest memories outdoors fishing with my dad—and with family, camping and exploring local National Parks like Yosemite and Sequoia. You could say it was programmed in my DNA—ha!
Spending time outdoors taught me to care about my surroundings, not take more than my lot, and to be a good steward of the environment. It was inherent—values my dad instilled in me early on and principles I still cling to today.
Now some must be thinking, how can one be a conservative and a conservationist? Is it counterintuitive? (NO!) Yes, you can be a political conservative AND conservationist. Conservation is for all. I’m living proof of it. We exist, and our ideas beckon to be heard. Don’t discount our voices and don’t be afraid to have your ideas challenged when it comes to conservation/environmental ideas. You may be surprised by them. Debate and discussion are healthy, even in this realm.
On Earth Day it’s important to celebrate human achievement, true conservation, innovative solutions to environmental problems, and realize how far we’ve come in bringing back imperiled wildlife. We can empower everyone, not just a select few, to get involved—especially when we are afforded the opportunity to go outdoors again.
Share your thoughts with me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. I’d love to hear them!