Few would argue that, when it comes to personal freedom, economic opportunity and natural resources, the United States has more to offer than any other country on the planet. And, for naturalists, its diversity of ecosystems and spectacular scenery are second to none.
But, for all its gifts, America has its share of problems and, in some ways, has a greater negative impact on the global environment than most countries. The king of consumption, America puts pressure on ecosystems across the planet and, on a per capita basis, is well ahead of other nations when it comes to the use of fossil fuels. At the same time, the U.S. is the primary exporter of guns and weapon systems and the leading consumer of illicit drugs. Our education system lags behind many countries and the gap between rich and poor continues to widen. More than 140 years after the Civil War, racism festers across this country while much of our attention is focused on dysfunctional celebrities, "reality" programming and pampered athletes.
Today, we commemorate the birth and celebrate the independence of this great nation. We have come a long way since 1776 but not always in the right direction. Anniversaries provide the opportunity for both celebration and reflection.