Monday, November 12, 2018

The Environmental Movement.

The environmental movement has a long history. It has spanned centuries in the modern era. America’s modern environmental movement was created by the early 20th century. This movement was part of the overall human rights movement that spread across the globe. The Progressives of the 1920’s wanted policies to protect public lands, forests, and other natural resources. They were worried about the pollution from industrialization. Industrialization dealt with social stratification, but it came with a price. That price was pollution (including lax wages in many cases, and other problems). That is why the labor movement worked hard to fight injustices involving labor issues.  After World War Two, the first U.S. piece of legislation to have the federal regulation of water quality existed. It was called the Pollution Control Act being passed on June 30, 1948. It was known as the FWPCA and it went through amendments in 1956, 1965, and in 1972. It increased the government's authority in water pollution control. By this time, many people died by smog or other pollutants. In Donora, PA, 20 people died and over 600 people went to the hospital after experiencing sulfur dioxide emissions. It came from a steel and wire plant and it came in the form of smog. After this tragedy, the first U.S. conference on air pollution existed in 1950 which was sponsored by the Public Health Service.

12,000 people died in London by smog in 1950. This came from a coal plant. Paul Ehrlich found that DDT spraying contributed to the death of butterflies in New Jersey. By 1951, the Nature Conservancy was created in Washington, D.C. This is a nonprofit organization that protects ecologically vital lands and waters worldwide. They will protect more than 119 million acres of land and 5,000 miles of rivers worldwide. Heavy smog in New York City increasesd asthma and other lung conditions. It killed 170-260 people. More New Yorkers died again by smog in 1962 and in 1966. Environmental awareness increased by the 1950's with Jacques Cousteau's The Silent World. Cousteau researched oceanic life and the documentary film of the same title will win the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1956. Eisenhower spoke on pollution in the air at his January 1955 State of the Union address. By July 14, 1955, the Air Pollution Act was passed. It was the first legislation to address air pollution. It caused enforcement against air pollution to be at the hands of the states, not to the federal government. The Sierra Club later protested the Echo Park Dam construction, and it was gone from the Colorado River project. The year of 1960 saw carbon dioxide climb above 300 parts per million.

By June of 1962, something happened. Rachel Carson released Silent Spring. It was acclaimed as one book that accelerated the power of the environmental movement. Carson's book criticized the overuse of pesticide. It found the DDT found in human tissue tripled from 1950 to 1962. The chemical industry denounced Carson's book as having distortions. President John F. Kennedy caused the Science Advisory Committee to review the book’s claims. The Committee reported that the conclusions in Silent Spring are generally correct, and by 1972 DDT will be banned in the U.S. Back then, coal smog was one type of toxic waste. Toxic waste is a poisonous byproduct of human activity. There was acid rain when water mixed with chemicals mixed with rain. Rachel Carson was a biologist found that pesticides harmed birds and other animals. More people using cars caused regulations on car emissions by 1963. On November 1963, Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall published The Quiet Crisis, an early call to arms on environmental pollution with an introduction by President Kennedy. Udall will go on to become a pioneer for environmental legislation. The Clean Air Act was passed in December of 1963. It allocated $93 million for the study and cleanup of air and water pollution. The act gave the federal government authority to reduce interstate air pollution, regulate emission standards for stationary pollution sources, and invest in technologies that will remove sulfur from coal and oil. By October 2, 1965, the Water Quality Act passed. It grew federal standards to handle water pollution. The Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act set the first national automobile emission standards on October 20, 1965.

Endangered species legislation came about on October 15, 1966. By August 1968, Paul Ehrlich released the Population Bomb book. This book falsely claimed by the world population growth will cause a global catastrophe shortly. He believed that environmental problems are caused by overpopulation. His writing influenced debates on the issue of the population to this day. The Santa Barbara oil spill on January 28, 1969, produced more awareness of pollution in America. Ohio's Cuyahoga River burst into flames when oil and chemical floated on the surface. By December 1969, Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, hired 25-year-old Denis Hayes to direct a national “teach-in” about environmental issues. Hayes recruits a handful of young college graduates to come to Washington, D.C. and started planning what will become the first Earth Day. These events contributed to the Earth Day national protest. By April 22, 1970, nationwide demonstrations existed to fight for environmental justice.

Many of the same people who supported women's rights, civil rights, and anti-war activism were included in the Earth Day rallies. The ecological movement evolved from just talking about mostly conservation to other environmental protection issues. LBJ and Nixon were pro-environment in many ways. The public caused Nixon to support some environment reforms. 1970 was the year when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created. It was a federal agency to protect the environment. The EPA targeted cancer-causing pollutants. The Clean Air Act of 1970 fought Air protection, The Clean Act existed by 1973, and the Endangered Species Act came about in 1973. Gerald Ford would create the 1974 Nuclear Regulatory Commission to make sure that nuclear materials would be regulated safely. Pollution disasters continued in the Love Canal situation and restorations like Bowers Landfill being developed as a wetland. Conservatives express concerns about property rights when dealing with environmental issues while liberals want more regulations involving ecological protections. This debate continues to this very day. What is true is that environmental protection is a crucial part of sustaining a progressive society and a healthy world.

By Timothy