There are plenty of people around today who can tell you about the first Earth Day, held on April 22, 1970. They are in their late 50s and early 60s now, but back then they were students, part of the Woodstock Generation and eager to find a cause to which to attach themselves. In the midst of the Vietnam War, in which defoliants such as Agent Orange were used to strip away forests concealing enemy combatants and a massive oil spill had contaminated the Southern California coastline, the idea of celebrating the Earth and its natural bounty seemed a redeeming response to human despoliation.
But there was, surprisingly, already an “Earth Day” in existence in 1970 that had been enthusiastically celebrated for close to 100 years. Arbor Day had been instituted in 1872 in Nebraska by Julius Morton, a Michigan transplant, who felt that the planting of trees could bring life again to the Great Plains. He believed that tree planting was “no more than a desire to pay a just debt to our forefathers who had cultivated trees before us.” Tree husbandry was also an expression of the human impulse to increase the beauty of the land, “to endeavor to make the world lovely because he has been a dweller on it.” On the very first Arbor Day alone, one million trees were planted.
You would hardly know it, but National Arbor Day is still around and is organized and coordinated by the non-profit organization Arbor Day Foundation, whose sole mission is to support the planting and maintenance of trees. It may seem decidedly uncool and retrograde to support such a moribund notion, but in fact today’s environmentalists could learn a great deal from the arborists. They could learn that all global warming could be dealt with through a massive reafforestation program around the world. They could be guided by the goodwill and genuine level of cooperation between arborists. And they could absorb that love for nature, rather than contempt for humanity, should be the ultimate guiding principle of any environmental movement.
Because contempt for humanity and censure for its transgressions are at the core of today’s environmental movement. Global warming hysteria has clearly taken aim at human incompetence in managing the environment. Animal rights organizations regularly decry the hubris of human beings who consider themselves as in some way superior to the animal kingdom; And supporters of such outré international policy platforms as Agenda 21 regularly dismiss inconvenient notions such as individual property rights, as an interference in their quest to save the planet.
In contrast, National Arbor Day is pro-human and focuses on human productivity and hope for the future. “The only stand we take,” says Mark Derowitsch of the Arbor Day Foundation, “is that it’s a great thing to plant trees.” Arbor Day does not require nor ask for government intervention, regulation, restriction or taxation. All it calls for is publicly spirited individuals and organizations to plant trees. “Anyone can plant a tree,” says Derowitsch. “You get your hands dirty and make a huge difference in the world.”
Is it any wonder that many people who once called themselves environmentalists are now loathe to do so because of that term’s negative connotations? In 1990, according to an ABC News/Gallup survey series, 75 percent of Americans surveyed said they considered themselves to be environmentalists. But those numbers have been slowly reversing over the last decade. As of 2008 (the most recent year the question was asked), only 41 percent of Americans identified themselves as environmentalists, with 58 percent now saying they do not.
And Gallup’s annual environmental survey also finds the public now favors economic growth over environmental protection by a 53-38 margin. For most of the last 25 years, even during previous recessions, the public favored the environment over the economy by as much as a two-to-one margin. That trend is now reversing itself as more and more citizens begin to understand that absurd environmental moratoria are making it impossible to compete with countries that are not so hindered. Meanwhile, opinion in favor of increased oil and gas exploration is surging, just as is the demand for nuclear power as a safe, cheap and clean alternative to fossil fuels.
Perhaps this is all because the militancy of the environmental movement has turned people against it as they increasingly realize that such self aggrandizing organizations as Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, National Defense Resources Council and Environmental Defense Fund have transformed from grass roots advocacy institutions into multimillion dollar fund raising franchises, with radical political agendas which stray far from their original mission of environmental protection.
That is not to mention the widespread realization of the alarming religious overtones which have crept into environmental language. In 1990, the Earth Day Foundation introduced The Equinoctial Earth Day, celebrated on the March equinox (around March 20) to mark the precise moment of astronomical mid-spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and of astronomical mid-autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. Solstice festivals are pagan in origin, going back to the earliest days of civilization. In 1992, Maurice Strong, the Secretary-General of the Earth Conference, hinted at the overtly religious agenda proposed for a future Earth Charter( 2000), when in his opening address to the Rio delegates he said, “It is the responsibility of each human being today to choose between the force of darkness and the force of light…….We must therefore transform our attitudes and adopt a renewed respect for the superior laws of Divine Nature.” Strong finished with unanimous applause from the crowd.
In anticipation of the conference, his wife, Hanne Strong, held a three-week vigil with Wisdomkeepers, a group of “global transformationalists.” Through round-the-clock sacred fire, drumbeat, and meditation, the group helped hold the “energy pattern” for the duration of the summit.
As if to prove the wild eyed ambition of this New Age millenarianism, authors of the Earth Charter, an environmental manifesto promulgated at a UNESCO meeting held in Paris in March, 2000 commissioned the building of The Ark of Hope , a latter day replica of the Ark of the Covenant as a place of refuge for the Earth Charter document. The Ark was later brought on foot to New York City from Vermont (just as the Ancient Israelites had once carried their Ark) and exhibited at the United Nations.
Is it any wonder that Strong would therefore comment after the promulgation of the Earth Charter: “The real goal of the Earth Charter is that it will in fact become like the Ten Commandments?”
Or that Mikhail Gorbachev, one of the world’s leading proponents of sustainability could state: “ Do not do unto the environment of others what you do not want done to your own environment….My hope is that this Charter will be a kind of Ten Commandments, a ‘Sermon on the Mount’, that provides a guide for human behavior toward the environment in the next century?”
In preparation for AFA’s The Green Movement Seminar in February, 2010, all of the speakers explained to me that they must regularly qualify themselves as sincere supporters of clean air and pure water before launching into any jeremiad against the environmental movement. This is largely a result of the guilt laid upon our society by environmentalists/ecologists over the past 40 years, who insist that mankind is preternaturally oriented towards environmental degradation.
With such a sad record of negativism, there should be little wonder that this year’s Earth Day, on the 40th anniversary of that seminal event, has passed by with a whisper, not a bang. Perhaps it is because Americans are beginning to understand that the world is not quite as grim a place as the Earth Day promoters would have us believe. Or that our future is indeed tethered to an environment that is put to humanity’s use and better purposes and not the other way around.