The very first Earth Day was on April 22, 1970. It was the Spring of my senior year in high school. That makes it easy to quantify. It means this is our 43rd Earth Day celebration! It also means that in what will seem like no time flat, I'll be preparing for my 45th high school reunion. THAT is what makes me feel old!

But I digress.

An estimated 20 million people observed that first Earth Day in 1970, so I'm not quite sure how I missed it. Probably had something to do with Senior-itis or my attention was focused on my draft number or the Vietnam war, or “Flower Power” or “Free Love” or something. This year an estimated 200 million people in more than 140 countries will observe Earth Day.

I'm glad the responsible adults in the room kept this Earth Day thing going because it was and continues to be very important. A few months after that first Earth Day, the Environmental Protection Agency was established in response to public demand for cleaner air, water and land.

In this political climate where almost every fact is sent into a bipartisan corner where it is discussed and dissected until rational discourse is almost impossible, here are a few facts.

Carbon dioxide levels around the world rose last year, which could indicate a rise in heat trapping pollutants. Which could also mean more work still needs to be done. Clearly that's true in China where air alerts have become legendary.

Smoke Stacks

We've done a much better job in the United States as evidenced by the pictures above of the 1973 and 2012 Weyerhauser Paper Mills and Reynolds Metal Plant along the Columbia River in Washington state. Pictures by David Falconer and Craig Leaper and the Environmental Protection Agency.

According to the EPA in this country:

--Every American produces more than four pounds of trash daily. That adds up to more than 250 million tons per year!

--Recycling and composting procedures kept 85 million tons of material away from dump sites. That's an improvement of 67 tons since 1980.

We still need the EPA. We still need to discuss ways to improve our quality of life without ANY of that very important conversation sidetracked into bipartisan bickering.

For more information on ways you can celebrate Earth, visit the EPA website.

Happy Earth Day!