In a recent speech to Toronto city council in Toronto, Canada, Don Cherry, the colo(u)rful hockey commentator and former NHL coach, referred to cyclists, environmentalists, and some in the media as “left-wing pinkos.” Now, this being Canada, many cyclists and environmentalists took this tongue-in-cheek, or even, perhaps, with a bit of pride, and Cherry’s speech sparked a cottage industry of left-wing pinko buttons, t-shirts, and so on. But, it made me wonder, why is environmentalism so frequently associated with so-called “left-wing” causes? At first glance, in any case, most aspiring Communist states have been quite destructive towards the environment, and Marx, Lenin, and so on never struck me as nature lovers.
This course, on Communism and the Environment, may help answer this question. In my research for the course, however, I’ve been struck by the persistence of this equation in conservative circles (Environmentalism = Communism), at least over the last 40 or so years (despite the fact, of course, that the most significant environmental legislation in the U.S. was passed by a Republican president). A case in point is “Earth Day.”
While trying to find examples of Vladimir Lenin’s writings that deal with the environment (he said remarkably little, directly), I came across this article debunking the myth that Earth Day is a Communist Plot, because the first Earth Day (April 22, 1970) happened to occur on the 100th anniversary of Lenin’s birth. For a good example of an article linking Earth Day, Lenin, Communism, and the environment, click here.
In any case, I am very much looking forward to exploring these and other issues, with the students in History 315/Environmental Studies 311, from a more rigorous historical point of view. Classes begin on Monday.