What The Founder Of Earth Day Believed And Did
Gaylord Nelson, who founded Earth Day in 1970, was a Giant among environmentalists. A Wisconsin State Senator, Governor of Wisconsin and a U.S. Democratic Senator, he started Wisconsin’s Outdoor Recreation Action Program (ORAP), a wildly popular 1961 proposal for Wisconsin land purchase and conservation. By 1981, ORAP had spent $93 million for land conservation, wildlife management, recreation, and pollution control that would benefit all constituents and public uses. The innovative ORAP program set a new standard for natural resource planning, and established Nelson as a national environmental leader in the U.S.
Nelson pushed programs like Operation Mainstream, which appropriated millions of dollars for the creation of conservation jobs and skills training for the poor and the elderly under the Green Thumb project.” His Earth Day was a watershed moment for environmental politics, kicking off what is now termed the “Environmental Decade” (1970’s) of radical legislative reforms. “After struggling to pass legislation through the 1960s, Nelson was…deeply involved in many of the most important (pieces of) environmental protection legislation: the Clean Water Acts, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Federal Pesticides Act, the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Education Act, the National Hiking Trails and the National Scenic Trails Acts….” See http://www.nelsonearthday.net/nelson/
He was a forceful leader in attempting to convince environmental organizations that they could never achieve their long-term goals unless the U.S. achieved population stabilization. He stated that in order for the U.S. to stabilize its population, it had to dramatically cut legal immigration and enforce its laws to stop illegal immigration.
On Earth Day’s 30th anniversary in 2000, Nelson said : “Population, global warming and sustainability would be my suggestions for the three most urgent environmental challenges…. Stabilizing U.S. population is a challenge that could be resolved in a relatively short period resulting in significant economic and environmental benefits. At the current rate of population growth, the population of the US will (rise)… to some 530 million within the next 65 to 70 years. If that happens, the negative consequences will be substantial if not, indeed, disastrous. To stabilize our population would require a dramatic reduction in our immigration rate….”
He said : “The hard fact is that while the population is booming here and round the world, the resource base that sustains the economy is rapidly dwindling. It is not just a problem in faraway lands, it is an urgent, indeed, a critical problem here at home right now. We are talking about deforestation, aquifer depletion, air pollution, water pollution, and depletion of fisheries, urbanization of farmland, soil erosion and much more….”
“The bigger the population gets, the more serious the problems become…. We have to address the population issue. The United Nations, with the U.S. supporting it, took the position in Cairo in 1994 that every country was responsible for stabilizing its own population. It can be done. But in this country, it’s phony to say ‘I’m for the environment but not for limiting immigration.’ “
To those economists whose only concern is maximizing GDP, thereby disregarding environmental concerns, Nelson would thunder that, “These people refuse to recognize that the economy is the wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.” If the environment collapses, so will the economy which depends on it.
All over the world, most environmental organizations, media and governments will celebrate Earth Day, but they will seldom mention Gaylord Nelson’s name or the very important reasons he had for establishing Earth Day.