By Tim Jimenez
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It is the 45th anniversary of Earth Day and an area environmental leader is reflecting on the strides made in protecting the planet through the years along with the major issues like climate change that still need to be addressed.
“We have made such progress in terms of lowering air pollution, cleaning up our rivers and being more sensitive to how people travel,” said Joseph Minott, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council, which was established in 1967.
He says there has been an evolution in the understanding of the connection between the environment and public health. In Philadelphia, Minott credits the Nutter Administration for its work on sustainability and programs like the Indego bike sharing program set to begin on Thursday.
“We’ve seen an explosion of bicycling and walkability,” he said. “We’ve seen City Council come up with requirements that large buildings pay attention to how much energy they use and make that public.”
As for areas, locally, that need improvement, Minott says too many people still drive to work even if they have access to public transportation or could be carpooling. Globally, he says climate change is still at the forefront and action is needed.
“We’re concerned about, are we really going to invest trillions of dollars in a new fossil fuel infrastructure,” he said, “or does it really make more sense at this time to move forward and to look at energy efficiency through wind and solar?”
In the Keystone State, fracking is an issue where groups like the Clean Air Council and businesses haven’t seen eye-to-eye on the state’s abundance of natural gas.
“At least we should work together to make sure that what we do is done in the way that is least harmful to public health and the environment,” Minott said. “And I sometimes think that doesn’t happen often enough.”
It’s difficult to address, Minott said, because of the amount of energy needed to fuel our everyday lives.
“Americans are energy hogs and I don’t think that’s going to change. We like our modern lifestyle,” he said. “But I do think we can do it in a more intelligent way and that is really highlight the need to be more efficient in our use of energy and also to get it from sources that are not so destructive.”