On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day — something of an ecological feast day — journalistic, philanthropic, and religious leaders echoed the spirit of the original celebration: The human race is a cancer on the planet. In the sternly reinforced quiet of stay-at-home orders, this Team Earth reveled in how the world is such a better, cleaner, calmer place when most humans can't commute or commit tourism.
CBS reporter John Blackstone found a silver lining in the pandemic, saying, "From goats in a deserted town in Wales to lions lounging on a road in South Africa, nature seems to be saying, 'We can get along fine without you.'"
Michael Brune of the Sierra Club added, "We all need nature a lot more than nature needs us."
It's not hard to imagine that ecologists would root for the coronavirus pandemic to reduce the tide of human ruination of nature. Perhaps the coronavirus hasn't been brutal enough for them. In his 1968 bestseller, "The Population Bomb," Paul Ehrlich channeled the approaching spirit of Earth Day as he openly discussed how India should have been denied food aid because the population reproduced too irresponsibly.
In The New York Times in 1971, Catholic writer L. Brent Bozell Jr. imagined a starving boy in Bombay bedeviling the global intelligentsia, writing: "There is a greater supply of him than there is demand. He disturbs the ecological balance. He is socially inconvenient. The demographic mind eyes him and observes it would be better had his father been sterilized, or his mother aborted him — or, better still, had he never been conceived."
In reality, human expertise prevented Ehrlich's apocalyptic vision of "massive die-backs" from famine in India, and everywhere. The ecological gospel has shifted emphasis from overpopulation to climate change, but the left continues to harp on the suicidal idiocy of the undereducated majority of the human race. Today, those supposed rubes are pressing to open up the lockdown.
It's a little surprising that the negative spirit of Earth Day is channeled by Pope Francis, who has been citing an old Spanish saying (as translated to English): "God always forgives. We humans sometimes forgive, and sometimes not. The Earth never forgives." This is a strange bucket of logic. Nature recovers from oil spills and forest fires, with or without human help. The pope suggested the coronavirus could be "the Earth's response to our maltreatment," as if the virus were a supreme being.
He sounds like Michael Moore, who's insisting, "Mother Nature has put us in its time-out room right now — literally, not just figuratively."
Catholics around the world are taught the pope is infallible in matters of faith and morals. But this pope's ecological reasoning can be questioned. Stewardship of God's creation is absolutely imperative for the faithful, but not at the expense of God's most precious creation, made in His own image to share in His eternal home.
In his 2010 World Day of Peace message, Pope Benedict XVI struck a more charitable tone regarding humanity's place on the planet. Faced with the debate over pollution, deforestation, and climate change, he said mankind should renew and strengthen "that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying."
Many of us feel impatient to return to the energetic swirl of commuting and vacationing and shopping and watching sports and getting decent haircuts — just as soon as it doesn't sound ominous. In the meantime, we should worry about people who celebrate a silver lining of pristine air and water due to the coronavirus "die-back."
Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.