Saturday will mark the 53rd anniversary of Earth Day, one full spin of the globe in which we are expected to celebrate the modern environmental movement. Yet that great cause, if we may paraphrase Eric Hoffer, became a business, then degenerated into a racket that not only became a haven for grifters but also a platform for scolds and eco-religion zealots. We strongly suggest that rather than spend a day exalting the inanimate Gaia, the West should mark it with recognition of how far human progress has brought us.
Closely related to Earth Day is Earth Hour, usually the last Saturday in March each year when the lights of “landmarks and homes across the world” are to be turned off from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm local time.
The usual scolds expect us “to spend 60 minutes doing something – anything – positive for our planet.” In other words, plunge the world back into pre-modern times. This might be productive if the point were to show how far man has come – and how far he will go backward if the green zealots get their way. Instead, it’s an opportunity to virtue signal and hector.
Economist Mark J. Perry has long suggested that we use Earth Day – which has become an airing of progressive grievances, which can be addressed only through leftist public policy – to “appreciate our fossil fuel energy treasures that come from the Earth’s natural environment.”
After all, Earth is where we’ve found the raw materials we needed to protect ourselves from the hostile environment around us and to pull ourselves out of poverty. It’s as if they had been stored there for us to use. Without energy provided by fossil fuels, man would not have advanced far beyond where he was just before the Industrial Revolution.
Let’s remember this by leaving the lights on and taking advantage of the blessings of the internal-combustion engine, an invention that has liberated man like no other.
Unlike solar and wind, which the green narrative insists will replace fossil fuels and make the world a better place, hydrocarbons are cheap and reliable. Also unlike solar and wind, they are here now, powering economies across the world. (Those two intermittent forms of energy produced a mere 10% of global electricity in 2021. When hydropower is added, it appears as if renewables make a much larger contribution, but we can’t count on that power in the future because the political left hates dams and would rather they be taken down.)
At the same time we should also remember this: While the fawning-over-anything-green media will credit the environmental movement for the improvements we’ve seen since that first Earth Day, the truth is, as we wrote in an editorial at Investor’s Business Daily in 2009 that is no longer available online:
“The world, especially in developed nations, is a cleaner — and greener — place than it was when the environmental movement began,” because “through wealth generated by the free market, we have enough resources to move beyond the subsistence economies that damage the environment, enough disposable income to fund clean-up programs, enough wealth to scrub and polish industry.”
Without capitalism, there would be no Earth Day to celebrate. We would have neither the time nor the energy to parade around with banners plastered with bromides, nag our neighbors over their use of modern conveniences, make a big show of living sustainably, or hug a tree.
Outside of a few at the top, the rest of us would be grinding out another day of intense labor, just hoping to have enough to eat so we could do it all over again the next day. And there weren’t of a lot of “next days” for many before the Industrial Revolution because life expectancy was so short, about 35 years.
We leave with one final thought: Earth is a hostile place from which we need protection, but it is also a storehouse of riches that man has used to protect himself and improve his living conditions. That should be the message of Earth Day.
— Written by the I&I Editorial Board