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Earth Day… So What?

It’s not a flippant comment or a classic jazz solo — but an existential question about the devastating trend our civilization is on due to climate change.

The history of Earth Day shows how the worldwide environmental movement has evolved from concerns about in-your-face air and water pollution … to a focus on the invisible hazard of rising CO2 emissions.

To a large degree we’ve cleaned up the worst of the visible air pollution, contaminated water, and toxic wastes hiding under a few feet of topsoil. In the first few decades of Earth Day, consumers, companies and governments were all pulling in the same direction to right these environmental wrongs.

But something insidious happened due to the profits that can be reaped by polluting the Earth. Economists call it a Negative Externality (the imposition of a cost to one group of people as an indirect effect of the actions of another group of people). To fossil fuel companies, the negative externality they cause by producing oil and gas — which when burned pollutes the Earth with CO2 — is just a side effect to their record profits. For decades fossil fuel companies have been fighting and concealing this unprofitable truth.

There is hope amidst this grim reality. The history of Earth Day shows how public opinion can indeed change this trajectory — especially as the effects of CO2 pollution impact all of us with flooded shores, burning homes and unlivable cities. For insights into our progress amidst this grim reality, please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show.


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