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Environment


In many ways, America's environment has improved dramatically since the first Earth Day in 1970. The quality of the nation's air has improved substantially with respect to many pollutants, particularly lead after it was phased out as a gasoline additive several years ago. Water pollution from "point sources" like industrial facilities and wastewater treatment plants has seen similar improvement, though pollution from "nonpoint" sources -- principally urban, suburban and agriculture runoff -- has proved an intractable problem of ongoing concern.

While these and other domestic environmental issues draw continued attention, however, many environmentalists are now placing  international issues at the top of their list of priorities. Issues like global warming, population growth, deforestation, and the continued loss of many species of plants and animals have reached increasing prominence on the environmental agenda.

These issues are not without controversy. While few people consider themselves anti-environment, many environmental policies draw considerable opposition from those who are adversely affected economically. Domestically, industries complain of a heavy regulatory burden and question the benefits of new environmental proposals. Property owners complain that their rights are being infringed. There is also significant conflict in the international arena, where poor, developing nations argue that they can not afford new environmental restrictions and that rich, industrialized nations, who have until recently been the world's primary polluters, should shoulder most of the burden.

All of these issues, both domestic and international, are the focus of this section.

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