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April 22 is Earth Day

This year, Earth Day celebrates its 35th anniversary

Posted: April 19, 2005 (Updated: April 22, 2005) > Earth Day and the Rise of Environmental Consciousness    
> Shared Oceans, Shared Future    
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Earthrise as seen from Moon orbit,
December 24, 1968. (NASA photo)
Earth Day, April 22, is the annual celebration of the environment and a time to assess the work still needed to protect the natural gifts of our planet.

Earth Day has no central organizing force behind it though several nongovernmental organizations work to keep track of the thousands of local events in schools and parks that mark the day. Earth Day is observed around the world, although nowhere is it a national holiday.

In the United States, it affirms that environmental awareness is part of the country's consciousness and that the idea of protecting the environment - once the province of a few conservationists - has moved from the extreme to the mainstream of American thought.

Tracking Environmental Progress – Earth Day 2005

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans gathered to celebrate the first Earth Day. They forged a grass-roots movement to clean up the environment and protect it from future harm. Many Americans continue to renew their commitment to the natural environment on this annual occasion. As we mark the 35th anniversary of Earth Day, citizens of the United States will reflect on how we can work together to improve our environment, by joining a local environmental project, resolving to walk or ride a bike to work, or even to plant a tree.

There is plenty of good news this Earth Day. The quality of U.S. air and water is far better today than on the first Earth Day in 1970. In the last 30 years, our nation's economy has grown more than 170 percent while energy consumption grew only 45 percent. In other words, the amount of energy used to produce each dollar of economic growth decreased by 44 percent.

What’s more, pollution from the six primary air pollutants dropped by more than 50 percent. Carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds and lead emissions have been reduced from more than 300 million tons per year to less than 150 million.

In 1970 we were only beginning to understand the critical role of wetlands in preserving wildlife, coastal fisheries, and in assuring water quality and controlling floods. Not content with solely protecting existing wetlands, President Bush has set an aggressive new national goal to have an overall increase of wetlands in America each year. The President hopes to create, improve, and protect at least three million wetland acres over the next five years. We are making steady progress in achieving that objective.

Since that first Earth Day, American business has clearly discovered the benefits of becoming more environmentally engaged. Energy efficient products are appealing to consumers. Companies that are committed to lessening their environmental “footprint” through eco-friendly manufacturing enjoy greater consumer support. Congressional incentives are available for business practices that promote recycling. Environmental costs and consequences are now a routine line item in the cost of doing business. And environmental management systems are being implemented, marking a fundamental shift in corporate thinking from where it was 40 years ago. Incorporating environmental considerations into daily operational plans isn’t just good business anymore – it’s smart business.

The United States is working to build on the results of the last 30 years. For example, government and industry agreed on using reformulated diesel fuel and adjusted engines to dramatically cut particulate matter and nitrogen oxides in diesel exhaust. Now we are applying the same regulations to non-road engines, that is, diesel engines used in industries such as construction, agriculture and mining. These measures will produce some of the most dramatic advancements in clean air protection since passage of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. New stringent pollution controls will slash sulfur content in diesel fuel and cut emissions from nonroad diesel equipment by more than 90 percent.

Continued progress means harnessing human ingenuity and market forces. The Bush Administration is currently working to build on the successful cap and trade rules that since 1990 have reduced sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by about 40 percent. And they did this at half the cost of traditional approaches to curbing SO2 emissions. ("Cap and trade" refers to a system where a maximum limit is set for harmful emissions. Portions of that limited amount are allocated to participants who then are free to buy and sell those rights after the initial allocation.) President Bush’s Clear Skies legislation would rely on similar market mechanisms to cut SO2 emissions another 73 percent. Emissions of nitrogen oxides would be reduced by 67 percent, and mercury emissions would be cut by 69 percent. The cap and trade system, with its incentives for early reductions, will ensure that improvements come sooner and cost less.

We have learned much about our planet since 1970, and have a lot more to learn. While environmental quality in the United States is steadily improving because of the development and use of newer, cleaner technologies, we must turn an eye to developing nations and work to provide solutions to their ever-mounting environmental challenges.

In 2002, President George W. Bush pledged to "work with nations, especially the poor and developing nations, to show the world that there is a better approach, that we can build our future prosperity along a cleaner and better path." To that end, the United States is committed to developing new technologies and expertise and sharing them with developing economies. The 2005 U.S. federal budget included $5.2 billion for activities related to climate change - an increase of almost 14 percent -- with more than $200 million for technology transfer to developing countries. U.S. states and localities are also involved in making commitments through their own budgets.

At the 2002 United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development, world leaders, including delegates from the United States, committed to work for better water and sanitation, modernized energy sources, improved public health, more productive agriculture and better protection and management of natural resources.

This Earth Day, we should celebrate the remarkable progress we have made over the last three decades, but we should continue to be mindful of the challenges ahead. Every nation in the world shares the goal of a cleaner, safer and healthier environment, and our continued cooperation worldwide today will surely result in an even better tomorrow.

Earth Day 2005 Finds U.S. Environment Growing Healthier

The United States can look back on a 35-year record of environmental achievement as it commemorates Earth Day 2005 on April 22.

The State Department issued a media note April 21 summarizing U.S. environmental advancements over the decades, and recommitting the nation to its ongoing role as a steward of the nation’s air, water and land.

The statement also summarizes U.S. gains in sustainable development, climate change, biodiversity, forests and oceans.

For additional information on Earth Day 2005 see http://usinfo.state.gov/gi/global_issues/environment/earth_day.html.

The text of the media note follows:

(begin text)

Office of the Spokesman
April 21, 2005


United States Marks 35th Anniversary of Earth Day

As the United States marks Earth Day, there is much to celebrate. The environment of the United States is healthier today than it was 35 years ago when America celebrated the first Earth Day. Although complex environmental challenges remain, the United States is committed to confronting them and continuing its longstanding stewardship of the nation's air, water, and land. As a key player in this effort, the State Department advances a robust array of international environmental initiatives. A small sampling follows. For more information, please see: www.state.gov/g/oes.

Sustainable Development: The leading donor nation in the world, the United States provides $19 billion annually in official development assistance (almost a doubling since 2000) to accelerate economic growth and social development and enhance environmental stewardship in developing nations. Additionally, the United States has joined or launched hundreds of public/private partnerships in these critical areas. The Safe Water System Partnership, for example, has distributed or sold at low cost about 8 million bottles of disinfectant solution, providing safe drinking water to thousands of people.

Climate Change: The State Department has initiated 14 bilateral climate partnerships with countries and regional organizations that, with the United States, account for more than 70% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Also, the Administration's 2005 budget includes $5.2 billion for climate-related activities, including five cutting edge multilateral energy initiatives to develop technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally, and the Group on Earth Observations, an international partnership to improve our ability to understand planetary change.

Biodiversity: To promote global biodiversity, the United States secures protections for dozens of species. Through the International Coral Reef Initiative, the United States ensures that coral reefs remain vibrant, viable ecosystems. The United States has also launched an historic effort with 25 Western Hemisphere nations to conserve that region's migratory wildlife.

Forests: The United States is spearheading the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, a $53 million initiative to establish networks of protected areas and improve forest management across central Africa. Joined by over 30 partners, we have the potential to develop 27 national parks and protect more than 25 million acres of land. Through the President's Initiative Against Illegal Logging, the United States is safeguarding forest ecosystems worldwide, including in post-conflict Liberia.

Oceans/Fisheries: The United States is pioneering new techniques to crack down on illegal fishing worldwide. It also leads efforts to limit the capacity of the world's fishing fleet to sustainable levels and to prevent marine mammals and seabirds from being accidentally swept into fishing nets or hooked in longline fishing operations.

International Conventions: The United States participates in more than 200 international environmental treaty negotiations including those to protect the ozone layer, preserve wetlands, safeguard endangered species, and reduce hazardous chemicals.

(end text)


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