Thoughts on building a better Earth Day Birthday
When people attempt to rebel against the iron logic of nature, they come into conflict with the very same principles to which they owe their existence as human beings. Their actions against nature must lead to their own downfall.

-- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

May Mike Godwin forgive me for the post I am about to write.

Seriously, I hate it when people inject Hitler into every damned argument that comes along, especially when they do it in a serious manner. But what about Swiftian satire? Is that more forgivable? I mean, since we live in a time when everybody will eventually get to be Hitler for fifteen minutes, is it asking too much that I be allowed to make an occasional modest Hitler proposal?

Besides, this post really is not so much about Hitler as it is Lenin, who was in many ways Hitler's nemesis. Or at least one of his nemeses. The issue involves their respective birthdays. Hitler's birthday is today, while Lenin's birthday is on Tuesday.

And the issue really involves not a birthday, but Earth Day.

Tell me, pray, why must Earth Day always fall on Lenin's birthday?

What makes Vladimir Lenin so environmentally great? I can think of few things the man was more against than the concept of "bourgeois sentimentality," and the system he launched, inspired, and helped to build was so far from being environmentally green that it's fair to call it one of the nemeses of environmentalism itself.

Now, I realize that Lenin's state is now defunct, but if anyone thinks I am exaggerating about the monstrous anti-environmentalist attitude of the Soviet Union, consider that books like Marshall Goldman's The Spoils of Progress: Environmental Pollution in the Soviet Union were devoted to the subject.

[Goldman] devotes chapters to the pollution of Lake Baikal in Siberia, remarking that "Baikal is a unique lake in the world and all mankind will suffer from its desecration," and to the Aral and Caspian seas which is literally in danger of drying up as a result and the construction of hydroelectric statons. Proposals to restore the seas by building dams and reversing the flow of major rivers from north to south (Reshaping the Earth) may have equally profound and undesiarable results.

The book concludes by pointing out that the Soviet state is both manufacturer and polluter and its priorities lie with the increased production rather then conservation; with progress rather than restraint. Yet, hopefully, Goldman points to a number of beneficial state controls which if enlarged in the direction of restoring and protecting natural resources could have made Russia the most poweful and efficient of conservationists.

Goldman, was, I think, being overly optimistic, as the Soviet Union never had the funds which would have been necessary to devote to massive environmental cleanups on the scale required. Even after the fall of Communism, they still didn't:
Across Russia's vast steppes and Siberian taiga, and into the seas from the Baltic to the Pacific, the Soviet Union and later Russia have dumped, buried, spilled and exploded chemical and nuclear substances that had only one purpose - to kill people. They were the ingredients or byproducts of weapons of mass destruction. They were the wastes of the Cold War. Now, they continue to damage the land and people.

Although the Soviet Union has collapsed, a full accounting of the contamination it loosed on the environment has never been made. For most of the Cold War, the Soviet Union kept the sources of this pollution - the arsenals and bomb factories - shielded by the strictest secrecy. Little is known even now about the clandestine dumping and destruction of chemical weapons and radioactive materials. Moreover, little is being done about it, despite the health risks. In some cases, Russian authorities simply deny a threat exists and continue to stamp the files "top secret."

"This place has been abandoned," said Pankratov, surveying the chemical weapons graveyard, which lies less than a mile from one of the declared depots where nerve gas is stored. "No one is responsible for it. This information about old destruction sites hasn't been opened, it's still classified, and we are talking about it now because we have to face the obvious - we are talking about a dangerous contamination of the soil."

The contamination may become an enormous economic burden to a country already flat on its back. Russia simply cannot afford to clean up the poisons left behind by 50 years of dumping and discharge by the military and its bombmaking industry. The pollution is a potential health time bomb, causing an increased incidence of cancer and disease for which no one wants to take responsibility, especially the beleaguered Russian military.

And that's just military pollution. Factoring in industrial pollution (to say nothing of Chernobyl) and it's no exaggeration to describe what Lenin spawned as "the most appalling pollution problems in the world":
So much contamination by chemical wastes has been dumped into the drinking water supply that mothers in the Aral region cannot breast-feed their babies without running the risk of poisoning them (Feshbach, Friendly 2). The countries within the old Soviet bloc have the most appalling pollution problems in the world. These countries are riddled with polluted air, water, land, and devastated forests. Eighteen percent of the former USSR is classified as "very complicated" in terms of pollution. The most serious types (excluding nuclear wastes) are air and water (Dyukov 23).
I found some incredibly beautiful pictures (beautifully morbid, that is) at this web site.

This classic is titled "Smoke from the KMK steel plant":


Check the site out. There are plenty more, including scary pictures of sick babies, children playing in toxic slime, etc.

But be strong, and don't allow yourself to succumb to feelings of bourgeois sentimentality when you look at them. Progress means moving mountains, comrades! And diverting rivers!

Most timbering of the forests is done with clear-cuts, with as much as 70 percent of the cut timber going to waste. According to one estimate, acid rain is killing more than 500,000 hectares of forests in northwestern Siberia.

An official Soviet report on the "State of the Environment" in 1988 pointed to metal poisoning in various cities: cadmium in Odessa, manganese in Dnepropetrovsk and Rostov. "The highest degree of atmospheric pollution in 1988 was observed in 68 cities," mainly in the Ukraine, in Kuzbass, the Caucasus, east Kazakhstan and near the Ural Mountains. "The most polluted reservoirs in the U.S.S.R. are along the rivers and lakes on Kola Peninsula and along the Bug, Dnyestr, Danube and Don rivers."

There is no such thing as an environmental impact statement in the Soviet Union, although there are informal efforts to establish something like one. And no one can be certain who is responsible for most of the polluting because so much of it is associated with secret military enterprises.

Soviet agriculture is especially vulnerable, with much of the topsoil eroding. Farmlands have been heavily doused with pesticides and fertilizers. In the western Ukraine, thousands of square miles of farm land remain contaminated from the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

The most celebrated case of pollution involves the inland Aral Sea (see "The Death of the Aral Sea"). Once the world's fourth largest inland body of saltwater, the Aral Sea has lost two- thirds of its original size since 1970 and is expected to vanish by the year 2000 because massive Stalinist irrigation projects have diverted the waters of rivers that once flowed into the Sea into enormous cotton spreads.

I could go on and on with such reports. My point is, the idea of "Soviet environmentalism" is so ridiculous that the very term leaps out at me as an oxymoron.

So what's the point of talking about this today? Earth Day is still two days away, as it falls in Lenin's birthday.

Yet as we can see, it is the height of absurdity to call Lenin a friend of the environment.

Well, what about Hitler?

In terms of environmentalism, the man and his system were clearly way ahead of the times. While the Soviets raped the environment and poured pollutants willy nilly into the air and the water, the Nazi Party stressed respect for the earth.

In many varieties of the National Socialist world view ecological themes were linked with traditional agrarian romanticism and hostility to urban civilization, all revolving around the idea of rootedness in nature. This conceptual constellation, especially the search for a lost connection to nature, was most pronounced among the neo-pagan elements in the Nazi leadership, above all Heinrich Himmler, Alfred Rosenberg, and Walther Darré. Rosenberg wrote in his colossal The Myth of the 20th Century: "Today we see the steady stream from the countryside to the city, deadly for the Volk. The cities swell ever larger, unnerving the Volk and destroying the threads which bind humanity to nature; they attract adventurers and profiteers of all colors, thereby fostering racial chaos."31

Such musings, it must be stressed, were not mere rhetoric; they reflected firmly held beliefs and, indeed, practices at the very top of the Nazi hierarchy which are today conventionally associated with ecological attitudes. Hitler and Himmler were both strict vegetarians and animal lovers, attracted to nature mysticism and homeopathic cures, and staunchly opposed to vivisection and cruelty to animals. Himmler even established experimental organic farms to grow herbs for SS medicinal purposes. And Hitler, at times, could sound like a veritable Green utopian, discussing authoritatively and in detail various renewable energy sources (including environmentally appropriate hydropower and producing natural gas from sludge) as alternatives to coal, and declaring "water, winds and tides" as the energy path of the future.32

Even in the midst of war, Nazi leaders maintained their commitment to ecological ideals which were, for them, an essential element of racial rejuvenation. In December 1942, Himmler released a decree "On the Treatment of the Land in the Eastern Territories," referring to the newly annexed portions of Poland. It read in part:

The peasant of our racial stock has always carefully endeavored to increase the natural powers of the soil, plants, and animals, and to preserve the balance of the whole of nature. For him, respect for divine creation is the measure of all culture. If, therefore, the new Lebensraume (living spaces) are to become a homeland for our settlers, the planned arrangement of the landscape to keep it close to nature is a decisive prerequisite. It is one of the bases for fortifying the German Volk.33
This passage recapitulates almost all of the tropes comprised by classical ecofascist ideology: Lebensraum, Heimat, the agrarian mystique, the health of the Volk, closeness to and respect for nature (explicitly constructed as the standard against which society is to be judged), maintaining nature's precarious balance, and the earthy powers of the soil and its creatures.
There's a lot more, and one of the Nazi leaders, Richard Walther Darré, has been described as the "father of the Green movement." Indeed, Darré's "Blood and Soil" philosophy lies at the heart of today's Green Nazi platform (the Libertarian National Socialist Green Party.)

Lowell Ponte argued that Hitler "would have kissed [Paul] Ehrlich on the lips."

And no less than Reason Magazine has called Hitler a "visionary environmentalist."

Strong words, to be sure. And I am sure that many left-wing environmentalists would take serious issue with the idea of Hitler as an environmentalist. But in terms of philosophy, it is undeniable that Hitler was much more of an environmentalist than Lenin.

So my question remains. Why celebrate Earth Day on Lenin's birthday, especially when the birthday of a visionary environmentalist is just two days earlier?

I realize that there is still some dispute over whether the placement of Earth Day on Lenin's birthday is just a coincidence. The case can be made that it isn't, of course (and I have made that case in previous posts, including one in which I noted another coincidence -- that the very first Earth Day was held on Lenin's 100th Birthday). But let's give the green devil its due and assume for the sake of argument that the Lenin Birthday Earth Day is "just a coincidence."

In light of the dreadful Soviet environmental record, is it not then a horrible, terrible coincidence? Wouldn't it therefore make sense to move it? I realize that it's a lot of trouble to move a day that people have gotten so used to, but I don't propose moving it all that far. Just a couple of days earlier, that's all.

And to those sensitive souls who might object to moving Earth Day to Hitler's birthday, the answer could simply be that it, too is a coincidence.

Hey, today might just as well have been chosen for being, like, 420 (cannabis culture). Not only are some coincidences actually true, but as the cannabinoidists say, "Hitler's birthday has nothing to do with 4/20."

Though it is possible to look at the celebration of marijuana as being strategically placed on Hitler's birthday. A lot of bad things have happened on April 20, aside from Hitler's birthday. The Columbine shootings happened on that date in celebration of Hitler's birthday, The Oklahoma City bombing took place a day before April 20, and certainly dozens of white supremacist groups rally on Hitler's birthday. So perhaps the reason the marijuana celebration is on Hitler's birthday is so these hateful psychos will just get high instead of committing acts of terrorism. You show me a guy who sits around all day smoking pot, watching Cartoon Network, and eating Fritos, and I'll show you a guy who is not a threat to society. Wouldn't it have been better if Timothy McVeigh had just gotten baked instead of bombing a building? Or if Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had stayed home and smoked a bowl instead of going on a shooting rampage? The Red Army faction actually dissolved itself on April 20 in 1998. It might have been because they all just wanted to get high instead of trying to bring communism to Western Europe. Maybe if Hitler had gotten high on his birthday it would have made him lazy and less motivated. He would have sat around with Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Eichmann, eating bratwurst instead of starting a world war and committing genocide.
Cool. The world could have been, like saved and stuff. And Hitler would have been able to build the better greener world he really wanted and we all want.

So like, by any reasonable or logical standard -- as well as in spite of any reasonable or logical standard, Hitler is far more deserving of the Earth Day Birthday coincidence.


Because it's time for a new coincidence!

UPDATE: Today's the day, man!

A crowd of about 10,000 people collectively began counting down on the University of Colorado's Norlin Quadrangle just before 4:20 p.m. today.

Yet the massive puff of pot smoke that hovers over CU's Boulder campus every April 20 -- the date of an annual, internationally recognized celebration of marijuana -- began rising over the sea of heads earlier than normal this year.

See? It's already internationally recognized!

What more proof do we need that Earth Day should be moved to 4/20?

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and for the reassuring words about possibly being forgiven by Mike Godwin. I try to leave Hitler out of most discussions. Honest!

A warm welcome to all! Comments always appreciated, agree or disagree.

posted by Eric on 04.20.08 at 03:05 PM


Well, duh!! Lenin is still PC, Hitler isn't!!

exhelodrvr   ·  April 20, 2008 10:35 PM

When I was a kid, Hitler's birthday was on April 24th.

Carol Herman   ·  April 20, 2008 10:35 PM


Carol Haven't seen you around for a long time anywhere.

Nice to have you back.


M. Simon   ·  April 20, 2008 11:12 PM

Eric, if you go to Walmart you can buy a shirt made from organic cotton and feel good about yourself this Earth Day.

Lou Minatti   ·  April 20, 2008 11:47 PM

I remember the first Earth Day, and I don't buy for a minute that this is a coincidence. That's why I never celebrate it.

Love your idea. I'm spreading the word.

Craig   ·  April 20, 2008 11:53 PM

Instapundit obliquely referenced Godwin's law. I've long felt that there must be a corollary: Godwin's law should be thought of as a bit like hearts. In hearts, points are normally to be avoided, however, if a player "shoots the moon"; that is to say, plays a hand counter to the normal incentives skillfully enough to get every last point, the rest of the players recieve the maximum number of points.
It's the same with Godwin's law, normally an appeal to extremes actually weakens a given argument, however, if it's delivered flawlessly, it can allow a bracing victory. You have just "shot the moon"; thank you.

SuperMike   ·  April 21, 2008 1:16 AM

Forget Lenin, he's dead. Why does it always fall on my birthday? It's not fair; I was here first.

David   ·  April 21, 2008 2:25 AM

You were here before Lenin? Man, you're old.

Harry   ·  April 21, 2008 2:43 AM

You were here before Lenin? Man, you're old.

Harry   ·  April 21, 2008 2:47 AM

Maybe if Hitler had gotten high on his birthday it would have made him lazy and less motivated. He would have sat around with Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Eichmann, eating bratwurst instead of starting a world war and committing genocide.

He wouldn't have eaten bratwurst. He was a vegetarian. And he wouldn't have been 420 friendly because he was an anti-smoking fanatic. True facts.

CJ   ·  April 21, 2008 3:13 AM

Wow. Just last weekend, Mike Thomas of The Orlando Sentinel weighed in as to who was the greenest president of the US, ever. His vote was...interesting, but well-substantiated:

In honor of Earth Day, I devote this column to America's greatest environmentalist.

His legacy was global, but Florida benefited in particular.

He saved the Ocklawaha River and St. Johns River from destruction. Without him, there would not be much left of the Everglades worth saving.

Creatures in his debt include panthers, manatees, eagles, pelicans, dolphins and turtles. But the list also includes elephants, tigers, seals and even the Guatemalan beaded lizard.

Yet this man lies buried in shame, the good he did interred with his bones.

No more. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the true green giant of American presidents: Richard Nixon.


Slartibartfast   ·  April 21, 2008 7:32 AM

Actually, since communism killed more people, and since environmentalism's ideal is pristine nature, i.e., nature untouched by Man, I think we should leave Earth Day where it's at. Had there been no free market countries around to prop up the Soviet system, we can be sure it would have produced a green paradise devoid of humans and fertilized by the corpses of the Russian people.

Ardsgaine   ·  April 21, 2008 11:24 AM

I didn't know about 420 in college but I knew about Hash Wednesday. That's two holidays!

plutosdad   ·  April 21, 2008 11:36 AM

"Silent Springtime for Lenin", the musical

(another modest proposal)

Laika's Last Woof   ·  April 21, 2008 5:27 PM

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