In 1970, although the USA was
wasting gasoline like there was no tomorrow and oblivious of the
greenhouse problem, they did at least realise there was an
environmental problem. There have been great steps taken to improve
certain types of pollution in US and Western Europe. The EU has been
instrumental in forcing and assisting the UK to take measures.
As I type this on April 22 2006 the CNN Saturday news in Washington is talking of gasoline prices most of the time.
The Wall Street Journal has a useful summary on this anniversary of Earth Day. I reproduce the text here, but you can access it more fully at http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB114565096191132649-GjCy9OZeetkOUCXEeLdUPW1BtG8_20070422.html?mod=tff_main_tff_top
Earth Day: 36 Years On,
Plenty of Concerns Remain
April 22, 2006; Wall Street Journal Page A7
THE MAIN EVENT
As the 37th annual Earth Day arrives this weekend, talk of the need for renewable energy to fuel the economy remains as alive as it was in 1970.
President Bush plans to honor the day by touring the California Fuel Cell Partnership in West Sacramento. Also to mark Earth Day, Timberland Co., the apparel company, unveiled solar-panel installations last week that it says will generate 60% of the electricity at one of its California facilities.
of progress has been made since the
first Earth Day -- a time when the heavily polluted Cuyahoga River in
Cleveland was on fire and most autos didn't yet have catalytic
converters. In 1970 the Environmental Protection Agency was created,
and in 1972 the landmark Clean Water Act was passed by the Nixon
But internationally, environmental conditions have grown worse. The world's population has jumped to more than six billion from 3.7 billion in 1970. China and India, which alone account for two billion people, continue to rely on coal-burning plants to fuel their rapidly growing economies, leaving a haze over many parts of Asia.
Here's a look at how the environment has changed since the first Earth Day in 1970:
Air and Water: Air and water quality in the U.S. have improved since 1970. In 1974 the EPA found that about 40% of the nation's largest rivers were safe enough for fishing and swimming. Today, about 70% are safe for swimming, and 60% for fishing, in part due to reduced industrial pollution and better sewage treatment.
Still, about 3,500 water bodies remain impaired due to bacteria and pollution from urban and agricultural runoff, according to the EPA. About 78% of the Great Lakes shoreline is impaired, and parts of the Chesapeake Bay are considered a "dead zone" where nothing lives.
Since 1970, total emissions from the most common air pollutants have decreased by about half, even as gross domestic product increased 195%, vehicle miles traveled in 1970, compared with 2005, rose 178% and energy consumption increased 48%.
World wide, air and water quality haven't made the same improvements as in the U.S. and Western Europe, in part because many developing countries don't have clean-burning technologies. Two-thirds of China's energy supply comes from coal, nearly double the amount of coal that is used in the U.S.
Global Warming: Since 1970, average temperatures around the globe have risen by almost one degree Fahrenheit. Most experts attribute at least some of the warming trend to the accumulation of "greenhouse" emissions -- such as carbon dioxide and methane -- in the atmosphere, and many link human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, to the trend. The U.S. emits about 21% of all greenhouse gases, the most in the world. China, which comes in second, produces about 15%.
Endangered Species: As natural habitats give way to development, deforestation and pollution around the world, some species are becoming endangered or extinct. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment says about 12% of birds, 25% of mammals and nearly a third of amphibians world-wide are threatened with extinction over the coming century. In the U.S., the Dusky Seaside Sparrow -- a Florida songbird -- became extinct in 1990. In Southeast Asia, the number of Sumatran Rhinoceroses -- hunted for their horns used in traditional Chinese medicine -- is down to about 300 from 2,000 two decades ago.
There have been some success stories in saving once-endangered species. In 1963, there were only 417 breeding pairs of Bald Eagles left in the lower 48 states. Now there are more than 7,000, in part because DDT, a once commonly used pesticide, was banned in 1972. The mountain Gorilla in Rwanda also is recovering.
--Compiled by Lauren Etter