April 22, 2017

Celebrate environmental successes

The environment is cleaner and healthier today than it was 60 years ago, 40 years ago, or even 20 years ago.

Air quality
Data from the Environmental Protection Agency show that, from 1995-2015, levels of every air pollutant it monitors saw steady declines, to the point where they are at or below national standards.
  • Carbon monoxide levels plunged 72% over those years;
  • nitrogen dioxide fell 45%;
  • ozone, 24%;
  • soot, 37%;
  • sulfur dioxide, 73%; and
  • lead declined 93%.
The share of children tested who showed high levels of lead in their blood dropped from close to 8% in 1995 to just 0.5% by 2015.

Water quality
Water quality overall has improved, with once severely polluted lakes, rivers and streams clearing  up.
Per-capita water use has declined 30% since 1975, notes the U.S. Geological Survey.

Soil quality
Vast improvements in farming technology mean farmers use less water and far fewer pesticides to grow more crops.  Improvements in crop yields has let the country reclaim vast acres of forestland. In fact, forest acreage has climbed 6% since 1920, despite the tripling of the U.S. population, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Carbon dioxide emissions
In 2015, CO2 emissions were below where they stood in 1996. That's despite the fact that there are 52 million more people living in the U.S., and despite the fact that the nation's economic output was 61% bigger, after adjusting for inflation. CO2 emission have dropped 9% since 2005, according to EPA data.

Some of the Most Ridiculous Predictions on Earth Day, 1970

“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.” — Harvard biologist George Wald

“We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.” — Washington University biologist Barry Commoner

“Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.” — New York Times editorial

“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.” — Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich

“Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born… [By 1975] some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.” — Paul Ehrlich

“It is already too late to avoid mass starvation,” — Denis Hayes, Chief organizer for Earth Day

“In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution… by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half.” — Life magazine

“The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.” — Kenneth Watt
Posted by Jill Fallon at April 22, 2017 1:04 PM | Permalink