On April 22, 1970, 20 million people across the country celebrated the first Earth Day. It was a time when cities were smothered in smog and polluted American rivers caught fire.
What started as a day of national environmental recognition has evolved into a global campaign to protect our environment. Earth Day is now celebrated in more than 192 countries across the world.
Environmental problems in our country and abroad have changed since the first Earth Day. Today, we face severe energy challenges that pose a great threat to our global environment, international security and the worldwide economy.
Some of President Obama's top priorities are to end our addiction to foreign oil, double renewable energy generation by 2020, double energy productivity by 2030, and confront global climate change.
EPA is taking a number of sensible steps to address climate change through standards that reduce carbon pollution from the largest sources. These standards will prevent harmful pollution from our power plants, and cars and trucks, while saving consumers money at the pump and building a strong, clean-energy economy.
Internally EPA is also doing its part to reduce energy, water and fuel use, along with associated emissions, at its facilities—including the regional office in Atlanta and satellite locations throughout the Southeast. Our agency-wide goals are to reduce energy consumption by 30 percent by 2015 and greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.
In February, EPA released its Draft Climate Change Adaptation Plan, which examines the ways our programs are vulnerable to a changing climate and how the agency can adapt to continue meeting its mission of protecting human health and the environment.
Earth Day is a great time to reflect on individual actions to help protect the environment. Driving a car, using electricity to light and heat your home, and throwing away garbage all lead to greenhouse gas emissions.
You may wonder what you can do to address the energy challenges we face and slow the pace of climate change. You can reduce emissions through simple actions like changing a light bulb, powering down electronics, using less water, and recycling.
Use EPA's personal greenhouse gas emissions calculator on EPA's climate change website, http://www.epa.gov/climatechange, to estimate your household's annual emissions and find ways you can cut emissions. There is even a calculator for kids at http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/kids
Detailed information and resources are also available for state and local governments interested in reducing greenhouse gas emissions at: http://www.epa.gov/statelocalclimate
We all contribute to climate change, and we must all be part of the solution.
For more information about the Earth Day activities in the Southeast, go to: http://www.epa.gov/region4/earthday
Writen by Gwen Keyes Fleming, U.S. EPA Regional Administrator for the Southeast