Washington, D.C. - Although many environmental organizations will strain to find the black lining in the silver cloud of environmental progress on the occasion of Earth Day, the Earth Day Information Center, a project of The National Center for Public Policy Research, is pleased to note environmental progress in many areas. Earth Day is Saturday, April 22.
"The air we breathe and the water we drink is substantially cleaner than it was at the time of the first Earth Day in 1970," said Peyton Knight, director of environmental and regulatory affairs for the National Center, adding, "Of course, good news on the environment, of which there is much, rarely makes the cut for the broadcast evening news."
The National Center notes that volatile organic compound emissions from cars and trucks, which are largely responsible for creating ground level ozone and smog, have declined 73.8 percent since 1970. In addition, between 1993 and 2002, aggregate emissions of the six principle air pollutants tracked by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have declined 19 percent.
Cleaner air has made for good news on the acid rain front as well. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions - the main pollutants in the formation of acid rain - have been markedly reduced. Sulfur dioxide emissions in the electric power industry are down 38 percent from 1980 levels, and nitrogen oxide emissions for the entire power industry are 37 percent below 1990 levels according to the EPA.
The Center also notes that, despite some claims to the contrary, the United States is gaining wetlands.
"In 2002 and 2003, the United States gained a net average of 72,000 acres of wetlands each year," said Knight.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture observes that net wetland acreage also grew at a rate of 26,000 acres per year between 1997 and 2001.
"The best way to ensure a healthier, cleaner world is to allow the power of human ingenuity to come to grips with environmental challenges confronting us," says National Center Senior Fellow Bonner Cohen.
"Technological innovation and well-protected property rights - not micro-management through bureaucratic fiat - will enable people the world over to live longer, healthier lives. Sadly, this message seems completely lost on an environmentalist establishment that is more concerned with fund-raising through fear-mongering than with providing common sense solutions," says Cohen. "The very things they attack, man-made chemicals, for example, have helped eradicate diseases, purify drinking water, create life-saving medicines and medical devices, and brought about countless other improvements in our daily lives."
Though progress has been made in clean air, water, and wetlands, there is at least one environmental issue area where advancement has been lacking: Endangered species recovery.
The House of Representatives approved the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act last year. The Act aims to remove some of the barriers to species recovery that are present in the current Endangered Species Act. However, this reform effort has been met with strong resistance from the environmental community.
"In the 33-year history of the Endangered Species Act, less than one percent of species listed as endangered or threatened under the Act have been recovered," notes Knight. "While most would consider a less-than-one-percent recovery rate a failure, many environmentalists apparently consider it good enough to continue the status quo."
This and other extensive information related to Earth Day and environmental policy is available at the Earth Day Information Center website at http://www.nationalcenter.org/EarthDay98.html. A history of Earth Day is available, as well as information and commentary on issues such as global warming, energy policy, forest policy, smart growth, and property rights.The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-partisan, non-profit educational foundation based in Washington, DC.