Pete McCloskey Looks Back and Ahead on Earth Day
Disclosure: Pete McCloskey, of whom I wrote in my last blog, is married to a friend of mine.
The real founder of Earth Day in 1970 was a great progressive Democrat, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. He wanted Earth Day, set for April 22nd, the same day as Arbor Day, to be a bipartisan and bicameral effort, and I was honored when he asked me to be his Republican Co-Chairman.
Arbor Day had been the idea, in 1874, of a Nebraska school teacher, who thought each school child should plant a seedling each April 22nd. Arbor Day is now celebrated all over the world, as is Earth Day.
Senator Nelson's concept led thousands of young people to join in celebrations of the beauties of our planet on a warm Sunday afternoon, but neither he nor I would predict that those same thousands of young people would name 12 Members of the House of Representatives as “The Dirty Dozen," and then walk precincts to defeat 7 of the 12 in the November elections. When Congress convened in January 1971, and over the next twenty four years, suddenly a majority of the members of both parties in Congress announced themselves as "Environmentalists." An amazing thing happened. During the next four years there was bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate for landmark legislation for Clean Air, Clean Water, protection of wildlife habitat, coastal zones and national forests.
That bipartisanship lasted for 24 years, but it ended with the election of Newt Gingrich as Speaker in 1994. Now, in 2018, the environmental protections of those earlier years are being dismantled by a President and a Republican Congress who think that even basic environmental protections are an unnecessary burden on land developers, manufacturers, farmers, food processors and businessmen. The removal of the ban on lead bullets, the permission to hunt grizzly bears from helicopters, the allowance of offshore drilling on our coasts . . . the removal of millions of acres from national monuments to allow mining and oil drilling . . . the reversal of clean air and water regulations . . . All of these things could be changed if progressive Democrats in the image of Gaylord Nelson could be elected around the United States so that balance could again be achieved between economic and environmental values.
The young people of 1970 did this 48 years ago and can do it again this November.
My family were progressive Republicans in California from the time of Lincoln in 1860 to the adoption of torture by Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld after the invasion of Iraq. But the environmental depredations of Trump, his Secretary of Interior and EPA Administrator should cause every high school graduate in June 2018 to emulate their predecessors of 1970 and turn out voters for Democrats this November. The Republican Party of Teddy Roosevelt has become the party of more and more golf courses, hotels, and the exploitation of oil and coal reserves at the cost of irreplaceable landscape, coastal reefs and the ocean itself . . . Trump and his lackeys truly believe that global warming and human increases in CO2 emissions are hoaxes and that no woman should have freedom of choice over whom she brings into the world.
A pox on these new Republicans. Let's vote them out and save the Earth.
Co-Chair, Earth Day, 1970