Earth Day honors Earth, our majestic home — not Lenin (2012 version)


This is mostly an encore post — sad that it needs repeating.

You could write it off to pareidolia, once. Like faces in clouds, some people claimed to see a link. The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, coincided with Lenin’s birthday. There was no link — Earth Day was scheduled for a spring Wednesday. Now, years later, with almost-annual repeats of the claim from the braying right wing, it’s just a cruel hoax.

No, there’s no link between Earth Day and the birthday of V. I. Lenin:

One surefire way to tell an Earth Day post is done by an Earth Day denialist: They’ll note that the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, was an anniversary of the birth of Lenin.

Coincidentally, yes, Lenin was born on April 22 (new style calendar; it was April 10 on the calendar when he was born — but that’s a digression for another day).

It’s a hoax. There is no meaning to the first Earth Day’s falling on Lenin’s birthday — Lenin was not prescient enough to plan his birthday to fall in the middle of Earth Week, a hundred years before Earth Week was even planned.

My guess is that only a few really wacko conservatives know that April 22 is Lenin’s birthday (was it ever celebrated in the Soviet Union?). No one else bothers to think about it, or say anything about it, nor especially, to celebrate it.

Gaylord Nelson, Living Green image

Wisconsin’s U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, usually recognized as the founder and father of Earth Day, told how and why the organizers came to pick April 22:

Senator Nelson chose the date in order to maximize participation on college campuses for what he conceived as an “environmental teach-in.” He determined the week of April 19–25 was the best bet; it did not fall during exams or spring breaks, did not conflict with religious holidays such as Easter or Passover, and was late enough in spring to have decent weather. More students were likely to be in class, and there would be less competition with other mid-week events—so he chose Wednesday, April 22.

In his own words, Nelson spoke of what he was trying to do:

After President Kennedy’s [conservation] tour, I still hoped for some idea that would thrust the environment into the political mainstream. Six years would pass before the idea that became Earth Day occurred to me while on a conservation speaking tour out West in the summer of 1969. At the time, anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, called “teach-ins,” had spread to college campuses all across the nation. Suddenly, the idea occurred to me – why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment?

I was satisfied that if we could tap into the environmental concerns of the general public and infuse the student anti-war energy into the environmental cause, we could generate a demonstration that would force this issue onto the political agenda. It was a big gamble, but worth a try.

At a conference in Seattle in September 1969, I announced that in the spring of 1970 there would be a nationwide grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment and invited everyone to participate. The wire services carried the story from coast to coast. The response was electric. It took off like gangbusters. Telegrams, letters, and telephone inquiries poured in from all across the country. The American people finally had a forum to express its concern about what was happening to the land, rivers, lakes, and air – and they did so with spectacular exuberance. For the next four months, two members of my Senate staff, Linda Billings and John Heritage, managed Earth Day affairs out of my Senate office.

Five months before Earth Day, on Sunday, November 30, 1969, The New York Times carried a lengthy article by Gladwin Hill reporting on the astonishing proliferation of environmental events:

“Rising concern about the environmental crisis is sweeping the nation’s campuses with an intensity that may be on its way to eclipsing student discontent over the war in Vietnam…a national day of observance of environmental problems…is being planned for next spring…when a nationwide environmental ‘teach-in’…coordinated from the office of Senator Gaylord Nelson is planned….”

Nelson, a veteran of the U.S. armed services (Okinawa campaign), flag-waving ex-governor of Wisconsin (Sen. Joe McCarthy’s home state, but also the home of Aldo Leopold and birthplace of John Muir), was working to raise America’s consciousness and conscience about environmental issues.

Lenin on the environment? Think of the Aral Sea disaster, the horrible pollution from Soviet mines and mills, and the dreadful record of the Soviet Union on protecting any resource. Lenin believed in exploiting resources, not conservation.

So, why are all these conservative denialists claiming, against history and politics, that Lenin’s birthday has anything to do with Earth Day?

Can you say “propaganda?”  Can you say “political smear?”

Good information for 2012:

Good information from 2011:

Good information from 2010:

Wall of Lenin’s Birthday Propaganda Shame from 2012:

Wall of Lenin’s Birthday Propaganda Shame from 2011:

Wall of Lenin’s Birthday Propaganda Shame from 2010:

Warn people not to be sucked in by the hoax:

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6 Responses to Earth Day honors Earth, our majestic home — not Lenin (2012 version)

  1. [...] more appropriate associate of Earth Day, though that's just a coincidence, too.)Embedded Link Earth Day honors Earth, our majestic home — not Lenin (2012 version) This is mostly an encore post — sad that it needs repeating. You could write it off to [...]

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  2. Ellie says:

    I thought it was in honor of Henry VIII ascending to the throne of England. Earth Day and England both begin with “E,” after all.

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  3. [...] Earth Day honors Earth, our majestic home — not Lenin (2012 … [...]

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  4. Ed Darrell says:

    John Malcolm responded at his blog:

    Mr. Darnell, you are certainly entitled to your opinions. However; you are not entitled to your own facts. Instead of making unsubstantiated accusations, rebut specifics from the article. Otherwise, your just wasting my time.

    He starts out claiming Lenin wanted Earth Day, and then accuses me of wasting his time making unsubstantiated claims? Has he no mirror?

    I responded there, in great haste but probably not enough ire:

    You present no information to back the claim — fatuous on its face — and then you challenge me. Astonishing.

    Let’s review some of the bigger errors in your post.

    1. Ehrlich did not “predict” population crashes. Obviously you wasted no time in researching what Ehrlich did write. He wrote several scenarios for disasters that could occur if Americans did nothing at all, especially if Americans did nothing to clean up air and water, and did nothing to conserve land. That was one of the main spurs for the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the extensions to the Heritage Land and Water Conservation Act and a dozen other pieces of national legislation to prevent disaster. The Rockefeller Foundation pushed more funding to their guy working to modify plants to be more food productive (Norman Borlaug later won a Nobel Prize for Peace for what we now call “the Green Revolution”).

    It wouldn’t take much to get right what Ehrlich said and wrote — the book is available in most good libraries across the nation, and you can read it online on Google Books, and key excerpts in many other places.

    Why do you waste your readers’ time with stuff you didn’t bother to research, but then refuse to read the facts? Oy.

    2. In any case, alerting people to environmental hazards is not a Lenin-like thing to do. Lenin helped push the Soviet Union to the top spot on the industrial polluters among nations list. Conservationists of the 1970s knew it then — there’s no excuse for you not to know it today. Did you do any research at all on this issue?

    3. Gaylord Nelson, U.S. senator and former governor of Wisconsin, was known for his patriotism. He was an ardent free-enterprise promoter; “[W]hile chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, he led successful efforts to authorize the first modern White House Conference on Small Business, create the system of Small Business Development Centers at U.S. universities, and improve the way that federal agencies regulate small businesses and other small entities, the Regulatory Flexibility Act.” Nelson’s grandfather was the founder of the Wisconsin Republican Party. Nelson seved four years in the U.S. Army, notably in the Okinawa Campaign in World War II. In the Senate, Nelson was a close advisor on conservation to President John Kennedy, one of the greater “non-Leninists” of our time. Nelson may have inspired Ehrlich, but not the other way around. Nelson was an ardent proponent of outdoor recreation as governor in Wisconsin, where he set up free-enterprise-based programs to expand hunting, fishing and camping to make it available to more Wisconsinites (85% of whom camped at least a night every year at that time). There is not a shred of evidence to tie Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, to any idea of Lenin’s. Shame on you for casting aspersions on this patriotic American.

    4. Denis Hayes attended the big business-friendly Stanford University, where he was studentbody president. Yes, he was on record as opposing the Vietnam War, but was much better known as an advocate for democracy and the environment. He was attending the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University when Nelson asked him to help organize the first Earth Day. To paint him as some sort of anti-American is pure prevarication, a whole-cloth lie. He’s very much a free-enterprise sort. Claiming he has or had any connection to Lenin is an insult to history books.

    5. You quote Sussman:

    Sussman notes that the movement for Earth Day took to heart Lenin’s adage, “Give us the child for eight years and it will be a Bolshevik forever.”

    Sussman has an overactive imagination. There isn’t an iota of evidence to support a connection between the teach-in aspect of Earth Day and Lenin — though there are direct links to Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia and the writings of Horace Mann and Henry David Thoreau. Are you arguing that Jefferson was a Leninist, too? The Bible says as the twig is bent, so grows the tree. Are you alleging Lenin planted that in the Bible? The claims that educating is a Leninist idea should set off anyone’s “sh** detector,” as Hemingway called it. It’s so patently false, it’s laughable.

    6. You wrote:

    After implementing his tyrannical rule over Russia in the October Revolution, Lenin issued a Decree on Land within his first year as Communist Party chairman. The decree declared that all forests, waters and minerals were property of the state.

    That’s exactly contrary to Nelson’s practice as governor of Wisconsin, where he got conservation organizations to pay for conservation easements, leaving land in the hands and title of private property owners, the better to protect the structure from government whim — like the whims of Lenin. Lenin’s actions did nothing for conservation, by the way. You could use some time in the history section of the library.

    7. The origins of American conservations — much preceding Lenin — are overwhelmingly capitalist and free enterprise. Look at the great conservations of our early history: John D. Rockefeller (yeah, there’s a mixed record there), Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, John Wesley Powell, Gifford Pinchot, and others — all of them capitalists, all of them fierce advocates of free enterprise. The rap on conservation from the right usually is that it’s a game for the rich — certainly that is the history in our nation. However, that land preservation benefits everyone. That history stands in stark contrast to Lenin’s foolish stealing of land from private landowners. Neither you nor Sussman appear to have any inkling of the history of land conservation in America.

    You probably don’t know that Laurence Rockefeller was one of our leading conservationists through the 20th century, through his enormous gifts to land preservation, including his purchase of the land that eventually became Grand Teton National Park, through his advocacy for preservation of wilderness and wild and scenic rivers. If you know the Rockefellers, you know they were congenitally opposed to Lenin, even the most liberal among them, Winthrop.

    Conservation in America is a product of free enterprise, one of the greatest gifts we get from that economic philosophy. The rest of the world still rushes to catch up — but of course, not Lenin. Lenin was opposed to conservation ideals as tools of the rich.

    Sussman gets history exactly wrong. Did he do no research at all?

    8. American conservation is pushed by hunters, land-owners and gun owners, all of whom oppose Lenin’s bizarre, anti-conservation anti-hunting stands. (You assumed hunters are not conservationists — clearly you don’t have a clue what goes on in the real world). Ducks Unlimited has led wetlands conservation for years. Ding Darling, the cartoonist, John James Audubon, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and others were sportsmen first — and they advocated conservation to preserve the sport, as well as to preserve wilderness. Lenin was a coffee-house punk when Teddy Roosevelt was saving American forests after the great fires of 1908. Sussman can’t even get the order of events right, stuff that has been on the record for more than 100 years.

    Waste your time? You’re dumping that garbage, and warning me against waste?

    Shame on you, shame on Sussman — you owe your readers, and every American, apologies.

    (My remarks are “in moderation” at the moment; want to bet whether this guy decides I shouldn’t be allowed to trumpet the truth at his site?)

    One must wonder whether these guys are genuinely so poorly informed that they don’t know the truth when it bites them on their nether parts, or whether they hope none of their readers knows the facts enough to call their bluff. Which position would be less objectionable, morally, terminal stupidity, or venal arrogance?

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  5. John Damious says:

    Reblogged this on Under the Footbridge and commented:
    Just blind coincidence. Is it just me?

    Like

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