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The Impact of Earth Day

Although Earth Day has become mainstream, surveys show that environmentalism may be stumbling. According to recent Gallup polls, 42 percent of Americans believe that the dangers of climate change are exaggerated, and less than half say that protection of the environment should be given priority over energy production.

But Earth Day is still important because it reminds people to think about humanity's values, the threats the planet faces and ways to help protect the environment, said Susan Clayton, a professor of psychology and environmental studies at The College of Wooster in Ohio.

"Thinking about the history of environmental activism and the way individuals have worked together to change policy can make us more optimistic about the ability to make positive changes in the future," Clayton said.

                                                 Mia Yamaguchi, outreach coordinator at the CoolClimate Network at the University of California, Berkeley's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, agreed. "There are many, many things that any one person can do to manage their own environmental impacts, which I think makes it really different from worries like the national debt or U.S. foreign policy," Yamaguchi told  in 2011.

In those cases, "I can probably write a letter to a politician, maybe donate to a cause," she said. "But if I actually start looking at what it would take to improve my vehicle's fuel efficiency by 5 miles per gallon, that makes a big difference."

The CoolClimate Network has a variety of online widgets for people interested in calculating their own energy footprint.