The environment 40 years after Earth Day
During 2010, 40 years after the first Earth Day, The Post will examine where U.S. environmentalism has succeeded, where it has failed, and how the ideas of that movement shape government policy today.
Before Earth Day became what it is -- a national ritual halfway between a street party and a guilt trip -- it was a bunch of 20-somethings working in an office over a diner in Dupont Circle.
The United States can now hit "reset" on one of its greatest environmental mistakes: the destruction of the enormous woodland that once canopied the continent from Maine to east Texas.
International policymakers and environmentalists are assessing whaling restrictions at a time when some whale populations have rebounded, but the affects of climate change, and the rise in ocean noise and offshore energy development continue to threaten the giant ocean mammals.
Nearly 40 years after the first Earth Day, this is irony: The United States has reduced the manmade pollutants that left its waterways dead, discolored and occasionally flammable. But now, it has managed to smother the same waters with the most natural stuff in the world.
Take a walk, or take a canoe, down the Anacostia River. Here -- in the story of one smelly, trashy and sporadically beautiful stream -- is the unfinished business of the American environmental movement as a journey along portions of the Anacostia River reveal decades-long failure to improve the ecosystem and water quality.
Which is worse? Closing two locks on a waterway that's used to ship millions of dollars' worth of goods from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi basin? Or allowing a voracious Asian carp to deplete the food supply of native fish sustaining a Midwestern fishing industry that nets $7 billion a year?