Every April 22 is Earth Day. As one who studies Soviet Russia, I can’t help notice that the day coincides with the birthday of Vladimir Lenin. The inaugural Earth Day occurred April 22, 1970, no less than Lenin’s birth centennial.
This is most ironic. Lenin is a decaying symbol of central planning, which, regrettably, is the ideological preference of many of those filling the streets on Earth Day. Although Lenin was a collectivist, not an environmentalist, he is frequently recycled, as mortuary specialists from Russia’s health ministry regularly re-embalm him in his tomb.
Lenin had no respect for life. He declared certain people “harmful insects.” In Lenin’s deadly worldview, pesky humans were not precious, special, unrepeatable; they were disposable.
That brings me to a living symbol of Earth Day: Paul Ehrlich. Dr. Ehrlich’s explosive bestseller, The Population Bomb, inspired the freshman class that first Earth Day, embodying the wildest fears of apocalypse mongers. The great Johnny Carson was, sadly, one of Ehrlich’s dupes, giving him a platform on “The Tonight Show” dozens of times.
Much has been said about Ehrlich’s book. But as author John Berlau reports, one item has been conveniently sunk into a land-fill. “He [Ehrlich] flirted with a proposal to require adding contraceptive material to all food items in the United States,” writes Berlau in Eco-Freaks.
“But Ehrlich’s most drastic—and contemptuous—measures were reserved for the third world. Ehrlich advocated that all men in India who had three or more children be forcibly sterilized.”
Really? That was something I needed to see for myself, certainly never learning this in my public education. So, I tracked down a September 1971 edition of The Population Bomb.
What Ehrlich wrote is jaw-dropping. Dealing first with pesky Americans, he wrote (pages 130-31):
“[T]he first task is population control at home. How do we go about it? Many of my colleagues feel that some sort of compulsory birth regulation would be necessary to achieve such control. One plan often mentioned involves the addition of temporary sterilants to water supplies or staple food. Doses of the antidote would be carefully rationed by the government to produce the desired population size. Those of you who are appalled at such a suggestion can rest easy. The option isn’t even open to us, since no such substance exists.
If the choice now is either such additives or catastrophe, we shall have catastrophe. It might be possible to develop such population control tools, although the task would not be simple. Either the additive would have to operate equally well and with minimum side effects against both sexes, or some way would have to be found to direct it only to one sex and shield the other.”
As for pesky (non-white) folks in places like India, Ehrlich was less patient. On pages 151-52, he favored “sterilizing all Indian males with three or more children,” and with the direct help of the U.S. government. “We should have volunteered logistic support in the form of helicopters, vehicles, and surgical instruments,” advised Ehrlich. “We should have sent doctors to aid in the program by setting up centers for training para-medical personnel to do vasectomies.”
Was this “coercion?” asked Ehrlich. Of course, but it was “coercion in a good cause.” Immediate action was imperative, assessed the professor. It was, after all, 1970, and the human race had precious little time. Ehrlich warned of humans metastasizing all over Mother Earth. He said stoically:
“I wish I could offer you some sugarcoated solutions, but I’m afraid the time for them is long gone. A cancer is an uncontrolled multiplication of cells…. Treating only the symptoms of cancer may make the victim more comfortable at first, but eventually he dies—often horribly…. 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. The pain may be intense.”
To borrow from other scaremonger imagery of the era, such as the hysterical propaganda film Soylent Green, it was only a matter of time before the helpless masses started consuming one another. Only government action by anointed elites could save us from Armageddon.
Today, Ehrlich remains an icon, holding a plum spot at Stanford as the Bing Professor of Population Studies. Because he’s a liberal, a “progressive,” the 78-year-old has gotten away with this, much like Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood matron, who ran a “Negro Project,” spoke at a KKK rally, labeled certain pesky people “human weeds” and “imbeciles” and “morons,” and preached “race improvement.”
For icons of the left, there’s no need to say “I’m sorry.” The sins of the fathers and mothers of the progressive left are buried with the trash, never to be recycled, especially at Earth Day.
— Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism,” and the newly released “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”