In the 28 years since the first Earth Day, much progress can be measured to protect the world's environment. Landmark laws, like the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Superfund and other federal initiatives to improve public health and the environment, have been enacted. These were necessary laws which emerged in response to very serious threats to our global environmental stability and which took years of unrelenting effort to bring about their success in the United States Congress.
As each Earth Day dawns, we have been able to point to some level of success in protecting our planet. At the same time, each Earth Day commemoration reminds us of the work ahead as old battles resurface and new challenges materialize. The Republican-controlled Congress has taken advantage of their majority position to attack the environment and reverse the environmental advances made in the last three decades. Because of strong public opposition to this attack during the 104th Congress , the majority in this Congress has now abandoned its frontal attack on environmental laws and resorted to "symbolic environmentalism" as part of its public relations effort to appear "green." Democrats in Congress will continue their fight to protect the laws protecting our environment.
Public opinion polls in the United States indicate that the clock will not be turned back on our environment and that Republican anti-environment initiatives will not be tolerated. Public awareness and concern about the environmental consequences of individual, business and government actions continues to grow. Three decades of environmental success is a big investment in nature's stock market and the public will not be passive about protecting the environmental dividends they expect their children to inherit.
Beyond the Congressional battles on the environment, there are alarming reports of environmental stress around the globe. These urgent environmental crises will require more than maintaining the "status quo." They will require new and creative approaches combined with bold action -- in our communities and by our governments -- to reverse the current environmental decline of our planet. Some of these crises include:
These problems are no longer warning signals; they are now blaring alarms. As each year passes, the earth's population increases and the demands on our natural resources and the threats to clean air, clean water and quality of life also increase. A fossil-fuel based, throw-away society whose primary goal is consumption must be made obsolete. Renewable energy sources, recyclable materials and a sustainable ecology is necessary to replace our outdated model of sharing the globe.
The alarm has been triggered and we must persist in our long-term commitment to protect the earth's life support system. The first Earth Day in 1970 was a call to arms for environmental stability and it resulted in creating an environmental ethic that continues to guide us. As the 21st century approaches and environmental challenges become more urgent, Earth Day 1998 reminds us of our past successes, renews our resolve and stimulates our commitment to protect the magnificent but fragile environment of which we are a part.
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