Tuesday, April 22, 2008


The earliest Earth Day goals have been long met and surpassed. In all areas - air, water, land - pollution has been abated and our environment has become much closer to pristine.

Consider that today's biggest environmental threat is supposedly carbon dioxide. I am old enough to remember when carbon dioxide was a desirable byproduct to environmentalists. In fact, the desire to turn more noxious effluents into CO2 was the reason catalytic converters were invented and mandated decades ago.

Today, Steven Hayward presented his 2008 Index of Leading Environmental Indicators, which he prefaces in this column. Hayward notes in the column.

The irony in this year’s political stampede stems from the fact that intense focus on environmental concerns (especially the United States) over the past decade has caused a significant diminution of environmental problems. It’s hard to scare people any more. Air pollution is on its way to being eliminated entirely in the U.S. in about another 20 years. Levels of air pollution have fallen between 25 and 99 percent (depending on which pollutant you measure), with the nation’s worst areas showing the most progress. For example, Los Angeles has gone from having nearly 200 high ozone days in the 1970s to less than 25 days a year today. Many areas of the Los Angeles basin are now smog-free year round.

Water pollution is more stubborn and harder to measure (and is being made worse in the Mississippi River basin by the government’s crazy ethanol mandate), but here too there have been major improvements since the first Earth Day in 1970. The Great Lakes have been cleaned up, with many previously endangered species of birds now thriving. The Cuyahoga River in Cleveland doesn’t catch fire any more. The amount of toxic chemicals used in American industry has fallen by 61 percent over the last 20 years, even as industrial output has grown. Forestland in the U.S. has been expanding at a rate of nearly 1 million acres a year over the last generation.

Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World also chronicles the improvements in our environment. Things are better, much better. We are just constantly having the bar raised and the line in the sand moved.

Thinking Globally + Acting Locally = Bad for the Earth

Think Globally, Act Locally, which may be better known as Not in my Backyard, has been a disaster for the environment. For example, buying "green" biofuels can mean cleaner air near your home, but is causing the destruction of the Earth's rainforests and elimination of many rare and unique species.

More broadly, the extremes that the environmental movement has imposed on the U.S. and other developed nations has been a net negative for the planet. They have been successful in their attempts to mandate near zero emissions here, by causing many industries to move elsewhere. These businesses have relocated to places where there is little or no regulation. Pollution can be spewed to the air and water in these far away places in a manner that is beyond comprehension in the U.S., even before the first Earth Day.
Out of sight, out of mind may better describe this philosophy.

For the sake of the planet, reasonable environmental standards must be established in the United States, and then remain unchanged. We were there years ago. It is time to roll things back to be within reason.

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