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The Dark Side of Earth Day

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Like many liberal causes that have gone mainstream, powered by a partisan media, Earth Day had some very radical beginnings.

First, it’s on April 22, the ruthless Russian Communist leader Vladimir Lenin’s birthday. If you think that’s a coincidence, and it might be, let’s learn more about one of Earth Day’s founders, Ira Einhorn.

Mr. Einhorn was a leftist leader who cheered on the Vietcong in the 1960s, hoping for a United States defeat. Then he adopted environmentalism, and hosted one of the very first Earth Day rallies in 1970. Thereafter, he claimed to be co-founder of Earth Day.

Mr. Einhorn is now serving a life sentence in a federal prison. That’s because he murdered and composted his estranged girlfriend, Helen “Holly” Maddux, back in 1977. I will spare you the details of how this was discovered 18 months later at his apartment.

The Earth Day enthusiast did not spend much time in jail, initially. He became future Sen. Arlen Specter’s most famous client. As a 1997 Time magazine article put it, “Release of murder defendants pending trial was unheard of, but Einhorn's attorney was soon-to-be U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, and bail was set at a staggeringly low $40,000 — only $4,000 of it needed to walk free.”

Mr. Einhorn skipped to Europe, marrying a Swedish-born woman and living in several countries for two decades until he was finally extradited from France and convicted of murder on Oct. 17, 2002.

In reporting the conviction, the New York Times neglected to mention Mr. Einhorn’s connection to Earth Day, or Mr. Specter’s involvement in the case, but the paper did fill in some interesting details:

“In the 1970's, Mr. Einhorn counted Jerry Rubin and the rock star Peter Gabriel among his acquaintances and later consulted with large companies on New Age trends. He vanished on the eve of his 1981 trial and lived in England, Ireland and Sweden before the authorities caught him in 1997 at a converted windmill in the south of France, where he lived with his Swedish-born wife.

“After his capture, Mr. Einhorn thumbed his nose at American authorities by appearing on television shows to discuss his plight and sipping wine while posing naked for photographers in his garden.”

It’s no wonder that Earth Day aficionados are tight-lipped about Einhorn and instead cite the late Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.) as founder of Earth Day. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also credits Mr. Nelson, noting that within a few months of the first Earth Day ceremonies, Congress created the EPA in December 1970.

You can hardly blame the green lobby for preferring to showcase Mr. Nelson and to ignore Mr. Einhorn. Mr. Nelson was instrumental, and, except for his chronic liberalism, was by accounts an upstanding public official. Mr. Nelson helped organize the first national “teach-in” on “the environmental crisis” on college campuses in the spring of 1970. He also helped steer through Congress several environmental laws that helped clean up America’s air and water. It was done in quick order for good reason, as the Washington Post recalled in a 2010 article:

“At the time, the Potomac River was choked with pollution-fueled algae blooms. Cleveland's Cuyahoga River had recently caught fire. Smog was so bad that, in 1966, a vast cloud of it was blamed for killing more than 150 people in New York City. And even the bald eagle's population had fallen below 1,000 nesting pairs in the continental United States, ravaged by the pesticide DDT.”

DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972 and its use greatly reduced worldwide after the publication of Rachel Carson’s 1962 scare book Silent Spring, which warned of DDT and other chemicals in food and water. It’s nice that bald eagles are making a comeback, but on the list of things ravaged, add millions of people dead of malaria in the Third World since DDT was banned for agricultural use and disease-carrying mosquitoes multiplied. In 2010, more than 600,000 people, mostly children, died in Africa of malaria, according to the World Health Organization.

Anti-human advocate Paul Ehrlich, author of the ridiculous 1971 book The Population Bomb, actually described the DDT ban positively as a means to halt “exported death control.” This is the man who predicted worldwide famine by 1980 and still managed to snag a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” in 1990.

The horrific cost to the Third World of being forced to adopt First World environmental practices doesn’t seem to find its way into Earth Day speeches. You won’t hear the following, for instance:

“European nations and the United States used insecticides to rid themselves of diseases and then pulled up the ladder, denying Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans the benefits of those same insecticides,” write Donald R. Roberts, et al, in The Excellent Powder: DDT’s Scientific and Political History. “As a result of these and other environmentalist attacks, DDT was removed from malaria-control programs, costs of malaria control skyrocketed, and the health and welfare of poor people in poor countries plummeted.”

Well, let’s not let the deaths of all those poor people spoil our day. Back to Mr. Einhorn. surprisingly ran a piece last year that told more of his story, “Earth Day co-founder killed, composted girlfriend.” The article began:

“Ira Einhorn was on stage hosting the first Earth Day event at the Fairmount Park in Philadelphia on April 22, 1970. Seven years later, police raided his closet and found the ‘composted’ body of his ex-girlfriend inside a trunk.”

“After the verdict,” the New York Times reported, “Judge William J. Mazzola called Mr. Einhorn, 62, ‘an intellectual dilettante who preyed on the uninitiated, uninformed, unsuspecting and inexperienced.’”

Heck, you could say that about any number of other leftwing heroes. How many young liberals who lionize Che Guevara know that Mr. Guevara was Fidel Castro’s trigger man, a ruthless thug who enjoyed executing anyone who got in the way of the revolution?

He killed a lot more people than Ira Einhorn did – unless you throw in Mr. Einhorn’s indirect role in the deaths of tens of millions of malaria victims.

At least we probably won’t be seeing Mr. Einhorn’s mug on a T-shirt anytime soon.

Or will we?

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