Looking up on Earth Day

EARTH Day was designed to be a celebration of nature, but it's mostly been used as a rallying point for anti-this, anti-that protests.

That's why it's important on this day to note some bright spots in the health of the planet.

Air quality in the US, for instance, continues to improve. Since 1970, emissions of the six pollutants identified under the Clean Air Acts have dropped 29 percent – even as energy use went up 45 percent. New technologies and regulations for public utilities are among the reasons.

The total amount of toxic chemicals used in the US also is declining – 48.5 percent since 1988. And the US is not running out of open space as quickly as many people might think.

More Americans are engaging in "civic environmentalism," or taking private action at the local level. Groups are cleaning up rivers, protecting habitats, or saving a species.

Such good news provides hope that humans can arrive at a reasonable balance in their use of nature.

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