This Earth Day, act locally, think globally

Published 12:00 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2022

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To the Editor:

Fifty years ago, Congress embarked on an ambitious effort to improve and protect water quality with the “objective of restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters” (Congress). In 1972, they passed the historic Clean Water Act legislation that gave us a way not only to identify problems, but we hoped also to solve them. The CWA was the first of its kind, and it made meaningful strides in cleaning up U.S. waterways and helped us achieve significant restoration and protection. It was a start. This law gave rise to organizations such as Sound Rivers (originally Pamlico-Tar River Foundation) whose objective was to work toward clean water, to protect our rivers and to continue to fight for even stronger legislation. Sound Rivers knew it had to go beyond the river to the watersheds and natural wetlands, both essential to the health of the river by filtering the water before it reaches the river, as well as to help mitigate flooding, an ever-increasing threat from climate change. For 41 years, Sound Rivers has worked tirelessly to achieve those goals. However, CWA wasn’t enough. In North Carolina alone, there are still 3,000 miles of unhealthy streams, creeks, rivers and 25% of all lakes, reservoirs and estuaries remain undrinkable, unfishable and unswimmable. This alone is alarming.

This week, as we celebrate Earth Day, we also celebrate that it’s the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act and 41 years for Sound Rivers. But all of our efforts are not enough if we don’t act now. The 2022 Climate Change Report is out and the findings are grim. Climate change is already harming ecosystems and species. Contaminants are on the rise. Global flooding already affects millions. According to the UN Climate report, “It’s now or never …  to make deep and immediate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.” The impact on our planet will be catastrophic. And it’s at our back door. Contact Sound Rivers ( to learn how you can help at the local level.

Act locally, but please, think globally. There is no Planet B.

Betsy Hester, Sound Rivers, Inc. Board of Directors