Wednesday, April 22, will be the 50th Earth Day. What has happened since that first earth day?
Richard Nixon established the EPA in the US in 1970 in response to public outrage about the effect on wild-life of a major oil spill off the coast of California. At that time, the focus was on pollution and the EPA was given the powers and was able to reduce air and water pollution. The public understanding of the emissions leading to climate change wouldn’t begin to develop for another 20 years. And the serious proliferation of plastic garbage filling our oceans didn’t begin until this century. (Canada’s Environmental Protection Act was passed in 1999.)
The Covid-19 world-wide shut down of commercial air travel, factories, and commuter traffic has had a remarkable impact. Air pollution has drastically reduced in cities that have not seen a clear sky for decades. And the grounding of commercial air flights and the enormous reduction in commuter car traffic has led in this short time to a 0.3% drop in emissions.
Can it continue when we come out of quarantine? Fifty years ago, public outrage changed the way air and water quality was monitored and protected. It’s possible!