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Earth Day 40

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Most disparagers of Earth Day in the past have not questioned the enormous significance of environmental concerns. Their line of attack has been to denounce the environmental movement's celebration of the day as a thinly disguised attempt to raise money and impose a socialist agenda through sweeping anti-business regulation. For these critics, the best way to cleanup and preserve the environment is to let the marketplace work its will. Competitive pressures will purge pollution.

It is criticism that has had inconsequential effect in dampening enthusiasm for past celebrations of the special day.

Now, critics are shifting to a different approach to diminish the occasion as Earth Day reaches its 40th anniversary. While not outright denying the importance of environmental concerns, denigrators are seeking to devalue Earth Day with a two-pronged attack. First is that some of the threats, global warming in particular, are exaggerated. The occasion, they maintain, has become a publicity stunt, and the truth is that advanced technology has the problems well in hand.

Secondly, all the hullabaloo about environmental degradation is a distraction from the primary concerns--a severely depressed economy and widespread unemployment.

This downgrading of Earth Day (primarily by hard core Right Wingers) resurrects the tired old shibboleth that when economic growth and environmental reform appear to be in conflict, the latter must give way. It is an appealing argument for corporate polluters. But it is contrary to the reality that the health of the economy and environment are integrally intertwined and cannot achieve their optimum state in the modern world without a finely tuned synergistic relationship.

If this positive message of collaboration drowns out the renewed attempts to minimize the true meaning of the "green" holiday by sowing dissension where there should be none, the 40th Earth Day will be the most successful to date.

Edward Flattau is an environmental columnist residing in Washington, D.C. and author of the forthcoming book, Green Morality, scheduled for publication this summer.

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