What does Earth Day mean?
Pardon my rambling; I just have some thoughts on the environmental movement on the 41st anniversary of Earth Day that I want to share with you. There’s a homework assignment at the end. Don’t worry, only the fate of our civilization depends on the answers. You will be graded.
In many ways the movement has come a long way: rivers don’t catch on fire; the manufacture of ozone depleting chemicals have been stopped; coal plants are often required to use the “Best available control technology” to reduce air pollution; CAFE standards were implemented to improve gas millage. Most companies at least pretend to be “Green” and some actually take it seriously. Google is investing in renewable energy and GM and Nissan are building electric powered cars. Teaching about the environment is now part of most schools’ curriculum and recycling is common in many places. So we have accomplished much. Give yourselves a pat on the back.
The early days were about collective action such as the Clean Water Act (passed in 1972) and the Clean Air Act (passed in 1970). The last major new law passed was ratification of the Montreal Protocol to deal with Ozone depleting gases, which was negotiated and signed by George Herbert Walker Bush. There have been updates to the Clean Air and Water Acts and tightening of CAFE standards and other tweaks, but no new major initiatives. This would be acceptable if there were no big environmental challenges remaining. Obviously that is not the case. So far Congress has taken no action to deal with climate change. To the contrary, the moderate first steps the Obama administration is taking under the authority of the Clean Air Act are under constant threat by Congress. Read more