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.
Earthrise as seen from Moon orbit,
December 24, 1968. (NASA photo)
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
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
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
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:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
April 21, 2005
United States Marks 35th Anniversary of
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
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
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
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.