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Earth Day Monday

April 19, 2013
Estherville Daily News

Monday is Earth Day, a day set aside for protecting our planet's air, water and environment.

The first Earth Day was in 1970. On July 20, 1969, humans first stepped on the moon, and the pictures taken of the planet Earth from outer space awakened the consciousness of humans worldwide to the impact we have had on our planet.

And conditions on Earth in 1969 were not good.

A prime example of how polluted the nation's rivers really were happened less than a month before.

At noon June 22, 1969, floating pieces of oil-slicked debris were ignited on the river by sparks caused by a passing train. Following an investigation, the cause was determined to be the oily debris trapped beneath two wooden trestles near Campbell Road Hill in southeast Cleveland.

Flames soared over five stories and lasted between 20-30 minutes, causing around $50,000 in damages, including $45,000 from the destruction of the bridge owned by Norfolk & Western Railway Co. and $5,000 from the Newburgh & South Shore Railway trestle.

Since water normally isn't supposed to catch fire, public awareness of the degree of degradation of the nation's air and waterways led to the birth of the environmental movement with the first Earth Day April 22, 1969.

Since then, the environmental movement has moved from demonstrations by isolated hippies to legislation that created the Environmental Protection Agency which acts as a steward of our nation's air and water.

The environmental movement has in fact gone worldwide, with implementation of the Kyoto Protocol Feb. 16, 2005.

Whether or not one agrees with the climate change debate - and whether it's caused by humans - just about everyone would also have to agree that, in 1969 at least, something had to be done. The nation's rivers were open sewers and many cities were choking with noxious, yellow smog.

With higher-efficiency vehicles, ethanol-fuel vehicles and other measures, air quality has actually improved in a number of American cities. Smog alerts - which seemed a daily occurrence in Philadelphia, for example - now are a relative rarity.

But we have a long way to go.

Iowa stands to benefit from the push for a cleaner environment with its growing wind energy industry and ethanol production.

It's also a valuable service we're providing to the nation - as well as the world.



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