Earth Day, April 22, is almost here again and many devoted Evanstonians will give their traditional few hours to picking up trash and litter all around town.  It’s great to see the results, but I always wonder why this effort can’t be maintained all year long.  Contact the Ecology Center if you wish to participate. 

I am thinking about the wider effects of addressing our total environment as we more and more contemplate  the effects of climate change on our daily lives.  Witness, for example, this winter’s fluctuating temperatures, intense storms, and the drought in California.  

Back in 1970 Congress and Nixon enacted the Clean Air Act, thereby creating the Environmental Protection Agency.  For sure the benefits of the resulting regulations have far outweighed the cost of compliance.  Yet it is becoming more and more evident that we have precious little time to waste in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Perhaps it’s time to lend a hand by using the power of the marketplace to curtail toxic and hazardous pollution.  A fee on carbon-based fuels would speed the needed transition toward clean sources of energy – wind and solar – thereby reducing levels of harmful pollutants and boosting renewables.

Although the EPA has a “Clean Power Plan” to impose regulations beginning this summer, the Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby is a more important and viable option. 

It would save hundreds of thousands of lives over 20 years while cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half and adding 2.8 million jobs to the economy. 

 It would give a monthly dividend, making about two-thirds of American households wealthier than otherwise, and a border fee adjustment removes any incentive for businesses to relocate to countries more permissive on these emissions. 

It is clear that in addition to cleaning up our streets and parks, the best way to honor the Earth Day tradition will be to consider these ideas to make possible the preservation of a livable world for future generations.