Earth Day has always been a great contradiction for me because I feel that, as ranchers, nothing is more important to us than protecting our environment and natural resources. Of course, the day itself has become a tool for the radical fringes of the environmental movement, and a very effective way of spreading and creating the politics of fear.

The impending collapse of our environment and our way of life due to the evils of capitalism and the military-industrial complex found their footing with Earth Day. Earth Day was the brainstorm of Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-WI), who died in 2005; he would have to be surprised by how successful Earth Day became and how it has galvanized environmentalism as a political movement and political force in America and most of the world.

I’d certainly never ask you to embrace some of the roots of this movement, which has come to be as much about changing our economic system as it is about the environment. But I do think we should be hesitant to condemn it for what it has become, instead of trying to make it what it should be.

As beef producers, we have an amazing story to tell. On the first Earth Day, we were on the edge of a time when scientists would be warning of the coming of the second ice age, and we were being told that we could not produce enough food to feed the world. Such predictions were rampant that we would not have enough clean water or air to survive.

The world has come a long way in cleaning up its act and embracing sustainability, and the evils of the free-enterprise system, and ag in general, have played a big role in making these changes possible. Certainly, the stock in trade of Earth Day selling the concept of an impending planetary doom at the hands of man’s greed and shortsightedness isn’t going way. After all, environmentalism is a method with which to sow fear and persuade people to willingly give up their freedoms.

But despite all the side issues, the very people who are being attacked relentlessly – agriculture first among them – have also been instrumental in creating a much better world. Earth Day is a day that beef producers should tell the world of their successes with pride.
-- Troy Marshall