Earth Day turns 40
April 22, 2010

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, today a popular day for educational events in schools and lots of well-organized "green" activities. Today's environmental issues are decidedly not the same as those of 40 years ago; leaded gasoline is no longer prevalent in cars, and heavy spending on the nation's wastewater infrastructure throughout the 1970s means most Americans are sending well-treated effluent back into rivers and streams -- sometimes even cleaner than the waters they're entering. However, American communities on the whole haven't done enough to reinvest in that infrastructure to keep it in top working order. The shortfall is in the billions of dollars, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. The public is clearly supportive of good environmental policy in the abstract, but getting people to pay for the needed maintenance and improvements when the bills come due can be quite another story. And, in an ironic twist, one of the major new expenses for water and wastewater systems is the need for defenses against terrorism -- including attacks by eco-terrorists and others who claim to be acting in the name of nature or "green" causes.

The need for continued investment in the quality of our municipal water and sewage infrastructures is a 365-day-a-year issue, but if occasional reminders like Earth Day serve to remind people of the need to match our good intentions with fiscal investment, then here's to 40 more years of Earth Day events.

April 2010
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last revised April 2010