Earth Day, 2000: The Good News

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The 30th anniversary of Earth Day gives us a chance to depart from the usual fare of doomsday predictions and point out one little-noticed but significant fact: In the past three decades, America in general, and Michigan in particular, have seen substantial improvements in environmental quality.

According to a report compiled by the Pacific Research Institute and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, new cars today emit less than five percent as much pollution as they did at the time of the first Earth Day in 1970. The air in Michigan cities meets health standards set by the Clean Air Act for all six major pollutants, including carbon monoxide and ozone.

How about water quality? Back in 1970, the Great Lakes were the butt of grim jokes about pollution. But today, a sampling from 40 percent of Michigan lakes, streams, and rivers shows 93 percent are now safe for swimming and fishing, and even for drinking in most locations.

Thirty years ago, most companies thought environmental protection would be ruinously expensive. And many environmentalists thought real improvements would be impossible. Both sides turned out to be wrong. And that's cause for celebration.