Editorial: Earth Day Still Matters

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It’s hard to believe, but Earth Day, that great celebration of the home planet, is nearly 50 years old. The day was designated to focus attention on the growing threats of air and water pollution and highlight ways to combat what seemed like a losing battle.

Don’t forget, it was a grim time. If you lived in a city like New York or Los Angeles, you faced the threat of choking smog that hung in the air, obscuring skylines. If you lived on the Great Lakes, you saw fish die off and worried about the safety of the water coming out of the tap. And if you lived in Cleveland, you actually got to witness the Cuyahoga River burn. Okay, that’s not entirely accurate: The river itself didn’t burn, but the oil and garbage on its surface did.

Things got so bad that President Richard M. Nixon, no proponent of big government, created the Environmental Protection Agency not because he wanted to but because he had to.

Fast-forward nearly a half-century. There have been improvements in both air and water quality, but major issues remain, from the threat of global warming and sea level rise to the mass of plastics swirling about our oceans and entering the food chain.

This year, Earth Day takes place on a Saturday, which means most of us will be off from work and be able to take part in many of the local events scheduled this year, from the Great East End Cleanup in Southampton Town, to a special Earth Day event at the South Fork Natural History Museum in Bridgehampton, to the Shoreline Sweep in East Hampton Town and many others in between. We all should take the time to do so.

With a new director of the Environmental Protection Agency who doesn’t believe in climate change, and a new president hell-bent on rolling back regulations he says are slowing the American economy and preventing America from being great again, it’s important to remember that Earth Day still matters.

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