Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Earth Day and Human Liberty

The first nationally recognized Earth Day was celebrated in the United States on April 22, 1970. Now, 46 years old, the annual event is a world-wide phenomenon celebrated in more than 192 countries. It is a day numerous cultures come together to voice their support for environmental protection.

I like a lot about Earth Day. As a natural scientist I enjoy walking around campus and visiting with students as they partake in environmentally-themed festivities. There are special opportunities for community service on and around Earth Day. These opportunities usually include neighborhood clean-ups, river rescues, a “Bio-Blitz” or two, work in a community garden, etc. Folks are inclined to think about the global environment and learn how they can act locally to protect it. This decentralized, neighborhood approach allows us all to engage, support, respect and empower our communities — benefiting the individual and thus the common good.

But I am bothered by an overarching theme that continually looms over April 22: Praise of authoritarian institutions. Earth Day was born of the 1960’s environmental movement. This 60’s-era environmentalism differed from the preservation-oriented ethics that preceded it.

Preservationist ethics sought the protection of the natural environment. The idea held that natural landscapes and seascapes, along with all the fragile flora and fauna that call these systems home represent a grandeur that is in and of itself worthy of protection. Preservationists and (to a lesser extent) conservationists believed human-civilization needed to protect wilderness because the pure freedom of the wild, nature for nature’s sake, deserved radical liberty.

Sixties environmentalism shifted the focus of public thought from natural systems to state institutions. The original Earth Day spawned a series of high-profile legislative measures in the United States under the Nixon Administration, including the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act, formation of the Environmental Protection Agency and much more.

I may differ from some of my libertarian comrades on what to do with these laws and institutions. That is to say, for the time being, I find them necessary for public and environmental health. The world is not as it could, or rather, should be. Still, these institutions are faulty. Mainly, they are ineffective.

For instance, the nation’s “most powerful environmental law,” the Endangered Species Act, is full of shortcomings. The number of listed species has well outpaced delisted species (plus, some species are delisted as they go extinct, noting failure as opposed to success). Even with global regulations, air pollution, according to the World Health Organization, is responsible for seven-million deaths annually — that’s one in eight global deaths. Global water quality is also of increasing concern, as freshwater reserves are tapped for industrialized agriculture and acid dilution. The list goes on.

Yet, on Earth Day such laws are hailed as victories. This is disheartening because the key message of Earth Day is good ole neighborhood environmentalism. The empowered populace is the revolutionary power needed to protect our communities, surrounding biota and maintain and restore healthy ecosystems.

The message of Earth Day is every bit as much about human liberty as it is environmental protection. The old ethos, that nature is good and that the living biosphere deserves liberty should be re-established.

Thankfully, it is. The environmental paradigm is once again changing. Rewilding the planet is openly discussed in academic and movement debates as a means to mitigate the current extinction crisis. The field of Restoration Ecology is a leading employer of conservation scientists today. Perhaps most excitingly, the urban corridor is changing. Community gardens, urban food corridors, public spaces and even wilderness areas are being designed into cities.

The concept of sustainability is evolving. I believe it will continue to do so. As each bit of progress is made, the cultural revolution will chip away at systems of power and domination. The democratic, permissive society is indeed the only sustainable society.  After all, what is more revolutionary, more natural, than human liberty? And what is human liberty without healthy neighborhoods and wild spaces?

More articles by:

Grant A. Mincy is a senior fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS.org) where he holds the Elinor Ostrom Chair in Environmental Studies and Commons Governance. He also blogs at appalachianson.wordpress.com. In addition, Mincy is an associate editor of the Molinari Review and an Energy & Environment Advisory Council Member for the Our America Initiative. He earned his Masters degree in Earth and Planetary Science from the University of Tennessee in the summer of 2012. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee where he teaches both Biology and Geology at area colleges.

May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
Lawrence Davidson
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail