Walt Kelly: “met the enemy, and he is us”

April 23, 2011

Walt Kelly's Pogo cartoon, from Earth Day 1971

Walt Kelly's Pogo daily cartoon strip, from Earth Day 1971

Walt Kelly’s little cartoon possum Pogo turned out to have been a sage observer, and adviser, for much of the 20th century.  This classic cartoon, on the second Earth Day, in 1971, well summarizes the problems of pollution, making historical allusion to that famous message from Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry after the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812:  “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

It is a mark of what the internet lacks that I could find just one quick copy of this cartoon on my first search.  All of Kelly’s work should be available, but it’s largely missing from internet searches.  I’m sure this is still under copyright, but I haven’t yet found the information.

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Oh, of course:  The line is too good to have been used just once.  Kelly used the idea for the quote in the forward to a book in the 1950s, and used it on a poster for the first Earth Day.  The famous comic strip followed in 1971.


Pareidolia? No, there’s no link between Earth Day and Lenin

April 23, 2011

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

Inventor of Earth Day teach-ins, former Wisconsin Governor and U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson

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?”

Good information from 2011:

Good information from 2010:

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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Monday is World Malaria Day; watch out for the pro-DDT hoaxes

April 23, 2011

A letter to the editor of the Cape Cod Times:

DDT unnecessary to fight malaria

April 23, 2011

Monday, April 25,is World Malaria Day. Across the globe, public health and malaria experts will be highlighting the urgent need to do more to tackle this preventable disease that kills more than 800,000 people (mostly in Africa) every year.

Here in the United States, a small group of advocates will, once again, use the day to call for widespread use of the pesticide DDT to control malaria. This despite broad, global agreement that widespread spraying of DDT inside people’s homes is not the best way to tackle malaria and can harm human health.

Those pressing for DDT’s widespread use are few, but they are loud and persistent. They are not public health experts, and they are all closely affiliated with right-wing think tanks. These calls to “bring back DDT” are a dangerous distraction from true malaria prevention.

Debbie West
Barnstable

Ms. West is right.


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