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Green: The profit revolution

| April 22, 2010 9:00 PM

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and the birth of the environmental movement. Founder Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. senator from Wisconsin, was fed up with leaded gas-guzzling V-8 engines, polluted smoke plumes darkening city skies, and what was commonly called "the smell of prosperity." Believing that industry could grow while polluting less, Nelson started Earth Day to force the issue to the national agenda.

In a way, going green was revolutionary.

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to streets, parks, and rallies coast-to-coast demanding a sustainable environment. Thousands of college students protested against environmental deterioration. Groups who had fought oil spills, factory pollution, raw sewage, toxic dumps, and the loss of wilderness and wildlife suddenly gained new support.

The environment became a non-partisan cause. Earth Day 1970 had support from Republicans and Democrats, business people and farmers, tycoons and union leaders. The Environmental Protection Agency was created. Congress passed the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts. With so much quickly achieved, Sen. Nelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

We've made significant strides since 1970. Engines are more efficient and unleaded gas is the norm; industrial pollution is down. Necessity has led to invention, as well as attention to the cause.

These days the focus has shifted to clean energy and renewable alternatives to fossil fuels. Since 2009, Earth Day campaigns reference "the green generation," but that doesn't only mean individual effort.

Going green can be profitable. Since 2000, global investment in clean energy technologies has grown between 5 and 50 percent per year. Since 2005, global clean energy investments increased 230 percent to a current level of $162 billion.

"Premium will increasingly be defined in terms of sustainability and environmental compatibility." - Norbert Reithofer, Chairman, BMW.

Sholeh Patrick is an attorney and a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Sholehjo@hotmail.com.

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