No Republican has uttered the words “Earth Day” on the House or Senate floor since 2010
By Doug Porter
I remember Earth Day back in 1970. It was a bi-partisan affair – Democrats AND Republicans. It even included hippies AND radicals (a big divide back in those days), although lefties were a little suspicious that this national event focusing on the environment was a plot to sap the the energy of the anti-war movement.
Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson (D) and California Congressman Pete McCloskey (R) were the public face of the movement which was focused on a day of national teach-ins. The idea was to make environmental protections part of the national consciousness. It worked.
The events around the country on Aprill 22, 1970 spurred the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.
Fast forward to 2014, via the National Journal:
For years, mentions of Earth Day have sprung up each April from members of both parties. In April 2010, Democrats spoke of Earth Day over 150 times, mostly in commemoration of its 40th anniversary. But no Republican has uttered the words “Earth Day” on the House or Senate floor since 2010.
Lest there be any doubt about the death of bi-partisan concern for the environment, here’s when the modern day GOP stands, via the Washington Post:
Over the past four years, the Republican Party has undergone a fairly dramatic shift in its approach to energy and environmental issues. Global warming has disappeared entirely from the party’s list of concerns. Clean energy has become an afterthought. Fossil fuels loom larger than ever. And one way to see this shift clearly is to compare the party’s 2008 and 2012 platforms.
It may seem difficult to believe now, but back in 2008, the Republican Party’s platform (pdf) had a long and detailed section on “Addressing Climate Change Responsibly.”…
…Skip ahead to 2012, and the GOP platform takes a markedly different tone. That section devoted to climate change? Gone. Instead, the platform flatly opposes “any and all cap and trade legislation” to curtail greenhouse gases. It demands that Congress “take quick action to prohibit the EPA from moving forward with new greenhouse gas regulations.” It criticizes the Obama administration’s National Security Strategy for “elevat[ing] ‘climate change’ to the level of a ‘severe threat’ equivalent to foreign aggression.” The platform even tosses in what appears to be a subtle swipe at climate scientists…
The Greening of Hate
Here in California, the science of environmentalism has been twisted by those opposed to immigration. This is the same sort of thinking that made the Golden State a hotbed for eugenics.
As an early leading force in the field of Eugenics, California became the third state in the United States to enact a sterilization law. By 1921, California had accounted for 80% of the sterilizations nationwide. This continued until World War 2, after which the number of sterilizations began to decrease, largely due to the fallout of Hitler’s eugenics movement. …
…Many of the powerful social workers, doctors, psychiatrists, and biologists, sought to hurt many of California’s Mexican, Indian, and Asian populations through the exclusionary laws that those scientists propose[d]. In addition to the conquest to hurt the “undesirables” in the state, the California Eugenics plan also was a way to save the state money so they could eliminate the money the state spends on welfare and other programs that help the less fortunate.
These days it’s become fashionable in some circles (most mainstream environmental groups have distanced themselves from this) to blame environmental problems on immigration and births to immigrant women. They, of course, say there’s nothing racist about this approach.
Via Dani McClain, writing at the Nation (which has terrific Earth Day coverage posted):
Last week, Californians for Population Stabilization launched a TV ad campaign blaming immigrants for a depleted water supply, air pollution from cars, and the disappearance of the state’s green spaces. The ad, which has run in Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, is in line with the group’s larger legislative agenda and its claims that the state’s fall from “pristine to imperiled” is the result of population growth caused by immigrants.
The California ad is just the latest display in a decades-old push (witnessed at various points within the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations) to cloak anti-immigrant activism in concerns about the planet’s future. Academic and activist Betsy Hartmann has called this push the “greening of hate.”
Matt Potter at the Reader dug up records filed with the Federal Communications Commission showing that KFMB (radio, I assume) was the local beneficiary of this advertising push ending on…Earth Day.
He also dug up this tidbit:
A prominent member of the group’s board of directors is Kim Fletcher, a Pete Wilson backer and ex-board chairman of San Diego’s now-defunct HomeFed Bank not noted for holding pro-environmental views. He was forced out in July 1992 when federal regulators seized the institution in what was at the time the largest savings-and-loan failure in American history.
The Future (or not) of Earth Day
It’s hard to tell the environmentalists from the carbon emissions pitchmen these days. The group splashed all over the local media for releasing their “dashboard” yesterday is sponsored by San Diego Gas & Electric and SeaWorld. It’s a very confusing world these days when it comes to friends of the environment.
Environmental actions devoid of any social justice context are mere window dressing in my view. Kids with asthma in Barrio Logan and taxi drivers driving gas guzzlers stuck in government-licensed serfdom in City Heights don’t really care about press conferences. Statements about “waste” that fail to mention the mere possibility of eliminating plastic shopping bags from the waste stream make me seriously question any group’s commitment to the Planet Earth.
Wen Stephenson posted a powerful essay at the Nation entitled “Let This Earth Day Be the Last” that starts out by saying “Fuck Earth Day.” His point is that modern-day “virtuous green consumerism, affluent low-carbon localism, head-in-the-sand conservationism, feel-good greenwashed capitalism” isn’t cutting it.
You simply can’t look at environmental issues without understanding and acting on the underlying and connected issues of equality and justice.
From his Nation essay:
What I’m talking about is not a fight to “solve the climate crisis.” That’s not possible anymore. But neither is it simply a fight for human survival—because there are oppressive and dystopian forms of survival, not to mention narcissistic ones, that aren’t worth fighting for.
What I’m talking about is both a fight for survival and a fight for justice—for even the possibility of justice. It’s a fight that transcends environmentalism. It requires something of us beyond the usual politics and proposals, the usual pieties. It requires the kind of commitment you find in radical movements—the kind of struggles, from abolition to women’s, labor and civil rights, that have made possible what was previously unimaginable.
Do Something: I Love a Clean San Diego
Now that I’ve given you the radical Earth Day sermon, let’s get you started by doing something not threatening…
Volunteers are still needed for the annual Creek to Bay Cleanup sponsored by I Love A Clean San Diego. Six thousand volunteers are expected to gather at more than 90 coastal and inland sites to help preserve the local environment by cleaning and beautifying these outdoor areas.
Twelve years ago the first Creek to Bay Cleanup began with only 27 cleanup sites and 2,000 volunteers. The event has continued to grow and is now one of the biggest cleanup events of the year in San Diego County. Last year volunteers removed 100 tons of debris from their local communities during the three-hour event. The removal of trash is not the only focus of this annual event. Volunteers also perform storm drain stenciling, landscaping and graffiti removal.
For more information or to sign up (you need to preregister!) online visit www.creektobay.org
PS- Don’t Forget Sunday’s EarthFair celebration in Balboa Park. (I covered it in yesterday’s column.)
On This Day: 1954 – The U.S. Senate Army-McCarthy televised hearings began. 1976 – Barbara Walters became first female nightly network news anchor. 1978 – John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd made their first appearance as The Blues Brothers on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
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Thanks Doug! It is imperative that we always link struggles together and remember that people should always be remembered when we talk about environmentalism. I don’t want to live in a pristine planet if its peoples are continually oppressed.
Lori Saldaña says
Thanks Doug- I appreciate your making the distinctions between “authentically green” and “greenwashing” business models. People should not be able to “pay to play” in the environmental protection game. But…
Giving a pittance to once-a-year events, in exchange for name on products/promotional materials, while paying much larger amounts to lobby for passage of horrible policies on energy, water etc., should not earn a company major sponsorships, and a place on an environmental “Wall of Fame” – yet it happens every year.
Part of it is these volunteer organizations constant desperation for funds. Part is an unwillingness and/or inability of people within the organization to look too closely, to do an accurate scorecard of business practices and outcomes, in the way they are done for, say, candidates for office, or the votes of elected officials.
When I helped organize the 1990 EarthFair, these issues were battled over at countless organizer meetings when we were volunteers, without a financial stake in the project. The question then was: Who had earned the right to be part of the celebration thru ongoing, authentic ACTION and a measurable commitment to clean air/water/soil etc., not just a healthy contribution to the organizers?
In the end, corporate contributions won out. Some of the details are readily available elsewhere.: Pardee development, among others, went on to funnel money to future EarthFair incarnations thru backdoor dealings that drew criticism and fueled investigations, based on suspicions that people were trading support of certain projects in exchange for endowments of funds for other programs and events.
Yes, the “green” really stood out in those deals…
Not the best legacy for these events, IMO. I’d rather we leave the earth a better place and on a better path, vs. provide cover for those leaving the planet in worse shape, while greenwashing them in annual celebrations.