Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day: John Denver versus the pandora's box

John Denver in his biplane - click to read an excerpt of his biographyMy friends are sometimes surprised to hear that I'm a John Denver fan. I disagree with some of - actually most of - his political views, but then again I like some of John Lennon's early 1970s music, even though the man was by then an even nuttier fruitcake than he was in the Beatles.

What I admire is Denver's adherence to his principles, and one of the first things I point out when talking about him is that while rock and pop oligarchs were recording their histrionic singles Do they Know it's Christmas? and We are the World, Denver was frequently in African countries with his sleeves rolled up. Denver had wanted to be on We are the World, but the single's producer, Ken Kragen, who also managed Harry Chapin and Kenny Rogers, commented that "several [un-named] people felt his image would hurt the credibility of the recording as a pop/rock anthem. I didn't agree".

Similarly, Earth Day 2010 - click to go to the homepagewhile Earth Day, instituted in 1970, is a once-a-year "awareness-raising exercise" for some, the title of Denver's 1990 song for the occasion summed up his typically uncompromising view: Celebrate Earth day (Every Day).

In other words, if you think that the activities of humankind are causing global warming, you can use your God-given free will to give up your car, stop flying in aeroplanes (admittedly not hard to do recently with the help of Icelandic volcanoes) and power your household entirely with wind-turbines. Every day.

My favourite Earth Day story was from Anthony Watts, stating that today Arctic sea-ice is at its hightest for 9 years, while Telegraph blogger James Delingpole lists the lunacy of Earth Day votaries:
  • "Between 75 and 85 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct" by 1995 - Earth Day founder, the late Gaylord Nelson.James Delingpole - click to read the whole article

  • The world will be "…eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age," Kenneth Watt, speaking at Swarthmore University, April 19, 1970.

  • "By 1985, air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half…" Life magazine, January 1970.
Gaylord Nelson, aside from founding Earth Day, is also famous for instituting hearings as a Senator on the safety of the contraceptive pill which required US manufacturers to place a statement as to the Pill's safety on its boxes, the first time in the country that an adverse effect had to be listed on a pharmaceutical product, and I can't fault him for that. But I think it gives an insight into the way his mind worked that no women were invited to testify, and this gave "reproductive rights" advocate Alice Wolfson a chance to stake her place in the dimming light.

Another peek into his psyche is given by his insistence that Earth Day should be held on April 22. This waMargaret Mead - click to read her article on Earth Days against the likes of, say, anthropologist Margaret Mead, who called Earth Day "the first holy day which transcends all national borders", that the feast should be held on the Spring Equinox, which falls around a month earlier. Students of history will note, therefore, the significance of the first Earth Day being held on 22 April 1970: it was, according to the Grergorian Calendar, the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov - Lenin.

Sadly, in the aftermath of John Denver's last flight, I am not aware of eminent left-leaning figures who believe in showing what they think about the environment at least as much through how they live as what they say. I suspect they were sidelined from public life by the same sort of ideologues who decided Denver was not appropriate for We are the World.

So we are left with a holyday of obligation for a monster who murdered and oppressed his own people before directing his baleful gaze towards Russia's neighbours, thence to the rest of the world both in his own right and through his unintended heir Stalin, who muscled in on his legacy the same way that Alice Wolfson piggybacked on the unsuspecting Gaylord Nelson. Thus do each generation's self-elected prophets hand a Pandora's box to those who will empty its contents upon the silent majority of the next.

And that's before we get to Al Gore.

Related post: lights on: don't let earth hour usher in a dark age


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