Environmentalism in the 1970s


In the 1970s, the term "Environmentalism" arose adressing the importance of combatting common everyday problems and major issues alike that faced the environment. It became increasingly significant in the 1970s especially after the moon landing of the Apollo 11 that had occured at the end of the previous decade in 1969. This major step in human progress inspired the American people to look beyond themselves and see the greater picture. Thus, awareness of the world around them swept over the American people, mainstreaming the issues that had been mentioned by early environmental activists in the 1960s.

  • The First Earth Day occured on April 22nd, 1970 and was the brainchild of U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson. It was created to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment.
"‚ÄčIt was on that day that Americans made it clear that they understood and were deeply concerned over the deterioration of our environment and the mindless dissipation of our resources. That day left a permanent impact on the politics of America. It forcibly thrust the issue of environmental quality and resources conservation into the political dialogue of the Nation. That was the important objective and achievement of Earth Day. It showed the political and opinion leadership of the country that the people cared, that they were ready for political action, that the politicians had better get ready, too. In short, Earth Day launched the Environmental decade with a bang."
  • --Gaylord Nelson, Founder of Earth Day
  • The success and publicity of Earth Day unofficially kicked off the 70s as the Environmental Decade. The overwhelming awareness that swept the nation hit the U.S. Government right in the face and prompted them to pass many bills designed to help save the environment. Some of these bills included: the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 (NEPA), the Clean Air Act of 1970, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, the Environmental Pesticide Control Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, just to name a few.

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  • Leadership of many Environmental movements in the 70s that led to change was provided by the EPA or the Environmental Protection Agency. It was founded on December 2nd, 1970. Since then, it has raised infinite awareness and has accomplished many things that have made a difference in the environment. The mission statement of the EPA is: "to protect human health and to safeguard the environment--air, water, and land--upon which life depends. Luckily for us, the EPA is still thriving today and working tirelessly to make the world a better place.
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Fun Fact: President Bush declared 2003 as the Year of Water in regards to the EPA. Oddly enough, that same year he cut the bugets of parts of the Office of Water by 20%....

  • One way to effectively raise awareness about the environment in the 1970s was through the media. One of the huge milestones here was the publication of the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. It Though not published in the 1970s (was published in 1962), the book raised enormous awareness and created Nationwide controversy over the use of pesticides. It opened the eyes of many and is credited with playing a huge part in the environmental movement of the 70s.
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Also, I'm sure many of you are familliar with the current television show Planet Earth. While it is indeed incredible and informational, it is not the first of it's kind. The first television show of the environmental movement was called Our Vanishing Wilderness, and first aired over 40 years ago in October 1970. It was created by nature writer Mary Louise Grossman and her husband Shelley, a nature photographer. The show was about just what the title says: the loss of American biodiversity. It is credited by bringing many crucial issues in the environment at the time to the publics attention, such as the Santa Barbara Oil Spill.

Even today, the media continues to help spread the message that something needs to be done about our environment. If environmentalism hadn't taken root in the 1970s, who knows where we would be now.

Below is a video of the song Earth by Imogen Heap. Heap wrote this song from the Earth's perspective berating the Human Race about the destruction of the environment.
...Just something to think about. "Give only what you give back--"