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As Wisconsinites, we can count the founding of Earth Day in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson as one of the finest gifts our state has given to the nation.

Sen. Nelson launched Earth Day in a year of great constructive change that included President Richard Nixon's signing of the Clean Air Act and establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. In his State of the Union address, President Nixon declared the 1970s as "a historic period when, by conscious choice [we] transform our land into what we want it to become."

Our present hyper-politicized divisions can make us nostalgic for those days when a general bipartisan agreement to do what was best for the environment created landmark legislation.

The government initiatives of 1970 responded to health and environmental crises faced by the United States. Today's crisis is far more widespread, threatening the entire world. Present projections indicate that by the end of this century atmospheric CO2 levels could reach their highest concentration in 50 million years, resulting in environmental and social chaos.

It seems our peculiar misfortune that some of America's most powerful leaders deny the threat that climate change poses to the environment and to the stability of civilization as we know it.

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Robinson Meyer, who covers environmental issues for The Atlantic Monthly, has noted that in no other country on earth does a major right-center political party take a position of denial and inaction on climate change. The politicization of environmental issues in America is irresponsible and immoral.

Now, 47 years after its founding, another Earth Day approaches.

An overwhelming majority of Americans support a healthy environment. Find a local event to participate in and let your elected representatives know you expect them to put partisanship aside and work for the good of the whole planet.

THOMAS R. SMITH, River Falls

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