Friday, April 22, 2005

Happy Earth Day

On this, the 35th Earth Day, the environmental movement is undergoing a period of introspection and even self-criticism, as the hard-won progress of the last three decades seem to have stopped. Indeed, thanks to the Bush administration and a precipitous decline of support for environmental goals in the GOP generally, some of those gains are being reversed.

Today's New Dem Dispatch from the DLC offers some good cheer in examples of environmental achievements being made outside Washington, and under the national media radar screen. But the defection of GOPers (at least politicians, if not necessarily rank-and-file voters) from even a pale green version of the cause remains a big political problem, and perhaps, for Democrats, an opportunity as well.

This is a fairly recent development. I'm definitely and precisely dating myself here, but on the first Earth Day, in 1970, I was in high school in Cobb County, Georgia, a very conservative suburb of Atlanta, and we devoted much of the day to environmental programming, including a speech by (for some reason) actor Hal Holbrook. Somehow or other, nobody in that community seemed to think we were buying into eco-socialism, opposing the idea of economic growth, or slipping towards paganism, even though the early aims of the environmental movement, which quickly culminated in the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, were in many respects the most ambitious steps of all.

Even then, there were wingnuts who tried to make a big deal of the fact that the original Earth Day coincided with Lenin's Birthday (trust all those ex-communist right-wingers to know that one!). Indeed, I graphically remember a comment in National Review at that time: "Here's how to celebrate Earth Day (formerly Lenin's Birthday). Pick up a beer can. Throw it at a pollutocrat."

Some things really haven't changed.
-- Posted at 9:50 PM | Link to this post | Email this post

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