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Earth Day 1970 (The Drama Queen Files, Exhibit #4)

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The language being used in 1970, the year Earth Day was born, hasn’t changed much: Crisis. Catastrophe. Endangered. Extinction.

Earth Day was first celebrated back in 1970. That year, the editors of Ramparts, a radical magazine, packaged a collection of essays together as a book. Released by mainstream publishing house Harper & Row, it was titled Eco-Catastrophe.

The left-hand, inside flap of the dust jacket reads:

Eco-Catastropheis now. Eco-Catastrophe is today. And if it keeps up much longer, there may be no tomorrow in which to wonder what happened.

Eco, of course, is the same eco as in the world “ecology”; it comes from a Greek root that means household. Catastrophe comes from the Greek, too; and it means catastrophe– or, quite possibly, extinction.

This book tells how people – greedypeople, careless people, recklesspeople – are dragging themselves down and taking with them everything else that is trying to stay alive on the surface of one tight little speck, perched precariouslyin space, waiting to become a cinder.

This book tells the story of mindless tampering with the natural order, of dirty water, of unbreathable air, of oil-killed birds, of radioactive debris and poison gases, of noisy streets, junkyards, cluttered highways, rotting fish, algae-glutted ponds, and of mother’s milk polluted with strontium-90 and imperishable residues of DDT. [italics in the original, bold red font added]

The right-hand, back flap of the dust jacket, says:

This book tells an angry story of a world being ruined. It is strongly felt, strongly expressed, and never shies from pointing to the perpetuators of the crisis.

Ramparts magazine, relentless critic of the Establishment and its follies, has drawn together twelve key articles from its pages, all devoted to various aspects of our endangeredworld. Together the articles make up a stunning indictment of a world gone mad, and of the individuals who are profiting from the madness. Dr. Paul Ehrlich, the population expert, writer Gene Marine, and others contribute to the provocative book. The goal is constructive, though – to stimulate popular action to reverse the possibly disastrousdevelopments that are corrupting the relations of man and his world.

A valuable, readable book, a book to transform outrage into determination, a book that tells it like it is – and had better not be.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Forty-three years ago, all of these words flowed freely from the lips of environmentalists:

  • catastrophe, extinction, crisis
  • greedy, careless, reckless, mindless
  • dirty, poison, polluted, ruined, endangered, disastrous
  • precarious, a world gone mad, madness

I was seven years old when that book was published. Which means that, for my entire life – certainly since I first learned to read – melodramatic, doom-laden language (not to mention a harsh assessment of humanity) has been a central pillar of my intellectual environment.

I have been taught, since I was a child, to subscribe to all of the above ideas. No right-thinking person was ever expected to challenge them. During my elementary and secondary schooling no one ever suggested that the environmentalists might be wrong, that they might be exaggerating.

During the four years I spent at university, no one ever whispered that the word “catastrophe” was being ludicrously over-used by activists.

When the same radicals who produced the above book encouraged us, during the 1960s, to “question everything” I’m sure they had no idea how pervasive and oppressive the ideology they themselves were creating would eventually become.

see also
The Drama Queen Files – Exhibit #1 – Greenpeace’s ‘Battle for Britain’
The Drama Queen Files – Exhibit #2 – The ‘Carbon Bomb’ Pipeline
The Drama Queen Files – Exhibit #3 – The ‘Outraged’ Sierra Club

Earth Day & the Media

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