NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Look Around When Celebrating Earth Day

April 20, 2001

It has become widely recognized that developed economies have greater resources at their disposal to combat environmental problems. In other words, free economies can clean up their surroundings at the same time they are cleaning up financially.

If less productive command-and-control economies were more successful at protecting their air, water, and plant and bird species, the former East Germany wouldn't be the wasteland it was found to be when the Berlin Wall came down -- and Beijing wouldn't be the grubby city it is.

In its Index of Leading Environmental Indicators 2001, the Pacific Research Institute reports that in the United States:

  • Air pollution emissions have decreased 64 percent since 1970.
  • Toxic emissions have fallen 45 percent since 1988.
  • Water quality has improved -- witness the rejuvenation of the Great Lakes.
  • The improvement in these and other environmental indicators is the result of "improving technology, market-based incentives and local activism, which people tend to rate more highly than government efforts."

Most observers expect that Earth Day promoters will focus on whatever instances of environmental degradation they can dig up -- and then call for as many new rules and regulations as they can think up. Cooler heads might want to focus on past and on-going environmental progress.

Source: Editorial, "Earth Day's Real Lessons," Investor's Business Daily, April 20, 2001; Steven Hayward with Julie Majeres, "Index of Leading Environmental Indicators 2001 Sixth Edition," April, 2001, Pacific Research Institute, San Francisco, California.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues