Has Anything Gotten Better since That First Earth Day?
Yarett, Ian, Newsweek
Byline: Number 17, NYC and Ian Yarett
Much has changed since 1970, which saw both the first Earth Day and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. While we've made progress in some respects, we still have a
long way to go to create the cleaner world those '70s environmentalists dreamed about.
ACID RAINREGULATION of sulfur dioxide and other emissions has decreased the acidity of rainfall: it has declined by 77 percent since 1970 in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, for example. Yet precipitation is still much more acidic than it should be.
THE OZONE LAYERBETWEEN the 1970s and 1990s, ozone-depleting gases in the atmosphere more than doubled. Thanks to a global treaty, levels have since been declining and the ozone layer is recovering--although it won't return to its pre-1980 state until midcentury.
AIR POLLUTIONEMISSIONS of six principal air pollutants, including ozone and particulate matter, have declined by 60 percent since 1970 as a result of the Clean Air Act and other regulations. Los Angeles had more than 100 smog alerts per year in the '70s; none have been issued since 2003. Still, air pollution may be responsible for 18,000 premature deaths a year in California alone.
SOLID WASTE AMERICANS generated 250 million tons of trash in 2008, or about 38 percent more per person than in 1970. Our recycling rate has increased fivefold, yet 47 percent more trash ended up in landfills or incinerated in 2008 than in 1970.
ENERGY USEENERGY use per person in the U. …