Area cities and counties are giving it the old college try in dealing with clean air and water, transportation and land use issues, according to the quadrennial Valley's 2008 Environmental Report Card issued by the environmental watchdog group Valley Forward.
But as in a college football game, racking up yards between the 20-yard lines doesn't count. Crossing the goal line is what does.
We don't take issue so much with the report's conclusions that show the overwhelming majority of Valley cities and Maricopa and Pinal counties getting A's and B's as much as whether it accomplishes much other than to keep encouraging the Valley's governments to stick with it.
Valley Forward officials recently told the Tribune Editorial Board that they realize the irony of giving top marks to area governments for such environmentally sensitive actions while federal authorities ponder cracking down on Valley clean air standards, for example, because our air still isn't that good.
They only evaluate the government entities based on how well they behave in areas within their jurisdictions with resources they have available. This seems only fair.
But we recall 1960s satirist Tom Lehrer's observation about changes in mathematics education of his time: The most important thing, said Lehrer - a math professor himself - was for students to understand what they were doing, "rather than to get the right answer."
And while most of Valley communities' grades were high, a few of the low ones are also worth looking at with some skepticism.
The small, exclusive north East Valley community of Carefree received a D in the transportation category, in part because, Valley Forward officials told us, Carefree doesn't have much of a mass transit plan.
Carefree, according to the town's Web site, consists of only 8.5 square miles with only 3,684 residents, according to the 2005 U.S. Census.
It also has a large percentage of wealthy retirees who don't commute. To travel the one or two miles to the grocery store, library, salon or whatnot, can we seriously expect these well-heeled folks to leave the Mercedes in the garage to board a government nine-passenger van? Puh-leeze. Those who don't drive easily have the wherewithal to call a cab, even rent a limousine, if they don't already own one.
Our critical observations aside, it is good to see Valley governments doing well with what they have. We are reminded, however, that achieving clean air and water are not matters defined by political boundaries, but only through the stewardship of us all.