Sigh...environmental "history" from the Competitive Enterprise Institute

I just saw a link to a new video produced by CEI, with Robert J. Smith ("the father of private conservation”), titled The Origins of the Environmental Movement.  It starts off discussing the environmental problems of the 1950s, 60s and 70s and then, before you know it, we’re all Maoists.  According to Smith, environmental activists in this period went from “waiving the little red book” (as part of the anti-war movement) to “waiving the little green book,” i.e., Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (as part of the environmental movement).  Oh, and by the way, did you know that “coincidentally or not” the first Earth Day was held on Lenin’s birthday?  There’s nothing new about the idea that environmentalist are closet Marxists (according to George Will the “Today's ‘green left’ is the old ‘red left’ revised”).  It remains an inaccurate, and deeply offensive, charge.

It’s also bad history.  Smith utterly ignores the deep historical roots of environmentalism in the United States, beginning at least as early as Henry David Thoreau and stretching through John Muir and Gifford Pinchot, and, of course Aldo Leopold.  Both the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society far predate the modern environmental movement. Smith also ignores the fact that even in the 1960s and 1970s there was a remarkable political consensus in favor of in increased environmental protection and government regulation.  The Endangered Species Act, for example, was passed nearly unanimously by Congress (there was one dissenting vote in the House of Representatives) and signed into law by Richard Nixon.

The truth is that Theodore Roosevelt was hardly a proto-Communist and environmentalism is as American as Mom and apple pie.