The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970. At the time, our environment was somewhat of a mess — too often featuring thick urban smog, burning rivers and lakes, unmanaged and leaking waste dumps and other unsafe or unpleasant environmental conditions. But it is no longer 1970. It’s time to move on as we no longer pollute the environment so much as we pollute our children’s minds about the environment.
In 1970, much of our air, water and land was certainly not as clean as it could have been. It was the product of a post-World War II economic boom based on smokestack industries which, by the way, had given us the highest standard of living the world had ever seen.
Looking past the left-wing politics of the Earth Day’s organizers, 1970 was the right time to make a concerted effort to clean things up. And we did. Many at the time were genuinely concerned about the potential effect of chemicals and emissions on human health. And we began to do scientific research.
By the time I started working on environmental issues in 1990, some 20 years after the first Earth Day, the clean-up and research missions had largely been accomplished. The air and water were clean. Messy industrial waste sites were being cleaned up. Chemical and pesticide use was appropriately regulated. Much scientific research had fortunately revealed there was nothing to be concerned about human health-wise from the low-levels of chemicals found in the environment. And industries had already begun to combat the problem of costly and senseless overregulation.
In 1970, there were few environmental laws, no federal EPA and few states had their own EPAs. Twenty years later, the situation was completely different. There were laws covering every aspect of the environment. The Clean Air Act, first enacted in 1963, was even on its third set of amendments. The EPA had thousands of employees and a budget of billions of dollars. Every state had its own EPA. The science was so reassuring about the safety of chemicals in the environment that EPA was forced to regulate chemical emissions and to set exposure standards exclusively based on non-scientific better-safe-than-sorry assumptions, not scientific evidence of harm.
Then the environment got politicized, if not radicalized.
When the Cold War ended around 1990, many left-wing radicals found themselves with nothing to agitate. So they joined the environmental movement. About this same time, global warming fears started to gain traction. It didn’t take long for the radicals to figure out that global warming was a horse they could ride since the implication of government regulation of fossil fuel emissions was total economic and societal control.
By the late-1990s the radicals had set aside virtually the entire suite of conventional environmental concerns – air pollution, water pollution, toxic waste sites, pesticide use and the like – to focus on climate. This was quite an unspoken statement since greenhouse gases are colorless, odorless and invisible, hardly what anyone thought of as “pollution.” The environment was, in fact, so clean that by the late 1990s environmental radicals were forced to start speculating out about imaginary and ever-distant potential future effects of these invisible emissions.
Now in 2022, environmentalism has become totally unhinged as it is all in for climate hysteria.
No apocalyptic climate prediction of the last 50 years – whether about average global or extreme temperatures, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, sea level, extreme weather, ice caps, polar ice, extreme weather, species extinction, whatever – has ever come true. Yet there is hardly an institution in our society – government, schools, charities, churches, big businesses, media – that has not totally bought into the climate hysteria bandwagon.
Climate hysteria in schools and media is particularly problematic. Children are taught to fret climate change in schools and the media then grimly reports how traumatized many children have become. Adults are continually assaulted with dire media reports about the end of the planet. Psychiatry has a whole new branch dedicated to treating climate anxiety disorder.
This is literally crazy. And doubly so since our environment has never been cleaner and everyone wants to keep it so.
When baseless and irrational fretting about the future is harming the mental health of innocent children, it’s way past time to stop and get a grip on reality. Earth Day? No thank you. Let’s instead return to an age of reason.
Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and is the author of “Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix the EPA.