Earth Day is upon us, and along with it comes hordes of armchair-environmentalists cheering for the continuation of our planet. While this cause may be noble, the holiday carries with it a dark history. Even amidst the championing of sustainability and progress, the celebration of Earth Day brings forth its own eugenicist baggage.
What is Eugenics?
Eugenics reached its dreadful apex in Nazi Germany. Hitler and his henchmen, obsessed with the creation of the master race, sought to exterminate everyone they deemed impure. This led to the atrocity of the Holocaust that will eternally haunt our modern minds. However, the Holocaust was not the beginning, nor the end, of eugenics.
Nature.com clearly defines eugenics as the following:
“Eugenics” comes from the Greek roots for “good” and “origin,” or “good birth” and involves applying principles of genetics and heredity for the purpose of improving the human race.
In the United States, the eugenicist movement began with the extermination of Native Americans and continued with the subjugation of the black population as slaves. Moreover, even past its more explicit manifestations, it continues to this very day.
The Earth Day Conundrum
One of Earth Day’s primary co-founders Paul Ehrlich, author of the book The Population Bomb, was a noted promoter of eugenics. He claimed that the burgeoning global population would pose a threat to both humanity and the planet. He even went as far as to also call humanity cancer. Ehrlich made his agenda very clear:
A cancer is an uncontrolled multiplication of cells; the population explosion is an uncontrolled multiplication of people…We must shift our efforts from treatment of the symptoms to the cutting out of the cancer. The operation will demand many apparently brutal and heartless decisions.
In turn, he proposed a series of policies that would bring about his wish. These included taxes on diapers and cribs, as well as the forced sterilization of fathers with over three children. “Coercion is a good cause,” Ehrlich claimed.
Furthermore, to call the Earth day advocates mere eugenicists would be a slight understatement. These intellectuals bordered on nihilistic. David Foreman, another noted environmentalist, also proposed many anti-human policies. The Daily Caller explains:
Earth First co-founder and former Sierra Club board member David Foreman has clearly stated his belief that “the optimum [human] population of Earth is zero,” and that “phasing out the human race will solve every problem on earth, social and environmental.” Sea Shepherd Conservation Society director and Greenpeace co-founder Paul Watson has informed us that he “reject[s] the idea that humans are superior to other life forms … Man is just an ape with an overly developed sense of superiority.” And there’s always famed animal rights activist Ingrid Newkirk, who has simply stated that “Mankind is the biggest blight on the face of the earth.”
As we can see, the history of Earth Day and the environmentalist movement is problematic. Yet, this does not mean that we should reject movements for sustainability. It doesn’t even mean we shouldn’t celebrate earth day. What we should do, though, is become conscious of the traditions we are carrying forward.
Because of the dark history of Earth Day, we should be careful in our promotion of policies that at face seem beneficial. We should do this so that we can move away from anti-humanism and nihilism and instead move towards a pro-people track to sustainability. After all, without humans flourishing in freedom and happiness, what is the point of protecting the Earth?
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