On Earth Day, Americans can be proud of success

Today has been set for the annual observance of Earth Day, focusing on environmental quality throughout the world. In that context, Americans have much about which to be proud.

Are there environmental challenges yet to be addressed? Of course. Many “brownfields” industrial sites, contaminated during decades of abuse, remain to be cleaned up, for example.

But especially in comparison to much of the rest of the world, we Americans have accomplished much during the past half-century. Our air, water and soil are dramatically cleaner than they were during, say, the 1960s. Efforts to protect endangered animals and plants have succeeded in some cases to the point the species involved no longer are in jeopardy. Better management of forests means more U.S. acreage is covered by trees than was the case a century ago.

By far the most severe, pressing environmental challenges are those in other countries.

Again, it is true there is more we Americans can do to safeguard the environment. But Earth Day 2014 is a day on which we also should celebrate our enormous success.