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Earth Day 38: Renewing our Commitment

Release Date: 04/16/2008
Contact Information: Donna Heron 215-814-5113 /

April 16, 2008

Earth Day 38: Renewing our Commitment

by Donald S. Welsh EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator

Thirty-eight years have passed since the first Earth Day in 1970, when millions of people joined in one of the largest demonstrations of public opinion in the history of our country. That day 20 million Americans – from all walks of life – participated in rallies, demonstrations and teach-ins to show their support for the protection of our health and our environment.

We were a nation under siege with valleys filled with leaky drums of hazardous chemicals. Air pollution was so thick that in some cities, like Donora, Pa., people had to change their shirts twice a day, and entire towns built on toxic waste sites were abandoned.

With the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency a few months after that first Earth Day, the country took steps to create a cleaner, healthier environment for all Americans. Over the next three and a half decades, EPA led the nationwide effort to clean up and protect the environment, for today and for the future. On this Earth Day we see these successes all around us. Lakes in the North East are recovering. Views are improved throughout our national parks. People are living healthier lives. And most notably, since 1970, air pollution declined by over 50 percent even while our country’s gross domestic product nearly tripled – proving that environmental protection and economic growth can, in fact, go hand in hand.

But EPA has not just changed the way our environment looks, it has helped change the way each one of us looks at our personal responsibility to the environment. So instead of simply expressing concern, this Earth Day all Americans are invited to renew their commitment to the environment by taking action.

This Earth Day, our citizens in the mid-Atlantic region are cleaning up trash from streams. They are joining together at community centers to learn about recycling. They are bringing energy conservation into their homes and businesses by buying energy efficient products that are good for the environment and good for the bottom line.

By working together we have cleared away the leaky drums, extinguished the burning rivers, and cleaned up toxic waste sites. While many of these visible challenges have been addressed, our environmental work is not done. We must renew our personal commitment to reduce our environmental footprint both here and abroad. This Earth Day, I encourage each of us to move beyond simply expressing concern. By taking action we can leave the earth a better, cleaner place than we found it.