Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

Thirty-eight years ago today, along with thirty or so well-meaning high school students, I climbed on the bed of a large truck and headed out for a day of trash pick-up along a state highway. It was the first Earth Day - April 22, 1970.

We hand painted card board signs to explain what we were doing. There were no fancy T-shits with pictures of frolicking dolphins. There was no talk of carbon credits. There was not even any talk of global warming. The scare back then was polluted lakes and rivers - mercury in the fish, acid rain - arising from industrial dumping.

The world economy has come a long way since then in terms of our ability to quantify the impact of ecological deterioration and the causes. It is harder for business and industry to push back against pollution regulation. In the 1970’s pollution controls were vilified as an unnecessary expense. Even President Kennedy’s eleven-state conservation tour in September 1963, had only marginally elevated corporate consciousness.

So much has changed since then. Indeed, today - at least in the U.S. - business and industry is leading the way in environmental clean-up. That is probably because going “green” is a good way to boost profits and brand image.

Now it takes a full week to stage annual Earth Day festivities. Environmental consciousness has been woven into the fabric of our society and economy. A couple decades ago young people across the country headed out to pick up trash and managed to pick up the entire economy.

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