During the 1960’s we first became familiar with the idea that the earth needed husbandry, that corporations were polluting the Mother for profit, and that it was up to us to find ways to heal an environmentally stressed planet.
In our lifetime, we had already witnessed dramatic air pollution catastrophes—sulphur dioxide fog emissions from a steel plant in Pennsylvania killing 20 (1948); the consequences of the use of DDT on wildlife (The Population Bomb, 1949); heavy smog episodes in New York killing 260 people (1953); world-wide levels of carbon dioxide climbing to 300 parts per million (1960); the first endangered species list including the America Bald Eagle (1966); the Santa Barbara oil spill releasing 200,000 gallons of oil for 11 days (January, 1969); Ohio’s Cuyahoga River bursting into flames from oil and other pollutants in the water, the flames reaching a height of five stories (1969).
Photo: Santa Barbara Oil Spill (1969)
We were influenced by Jacques Cousteau’s The Silent World (1953), reminding us of the importance of our oceans; Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962), alerting the nation to the fact that DDT in human tissue had tripled from 1950 to 1962; and Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb suggesting the necessity for family planning.
The Whole Earth Catalogue became available in 1968.
The first earth day is organized by Dennis Hayes and held April 22, 1970; conservatives call it a Communist plot because the day is also the anniversary of Lenin’s birthday.
In 1972, the Clean Water Act is passed (October), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (October), the Costal Zone Management Act (October), and DDT is banned in the United States (December).
The year 1973 sees the passage of the Endangered Species Act, and in 1974, the Energy Supply and Environmental Coordination Act, regulating the nation’s energy demands with environmental objectives.
Enter Global Warming.
In 1974 global warming begins to become a topic. Chemists Frank Rowland and Mario Moilina introduce the idea that Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are destroying the earth’s ozone layer. Not until the early 1990’s are CFSs fazed out of product production.
Jimmy Carter becomes President of the United States in 1977. He establishes the Department of Energy; launches the Nimbu-7 to measure the ozone layer; appoints Dennis Hayes, Earth Day organizer, as head of the Federal Solar Research Institute; installs solar heaters on the White House roof; and issues The Global 2000 Report to the President from the Council on Environmental Quality.
Then Ronald Reagan becomes President.
Reagan issues an Executive Order giving the Office of Management and Budget the power to regulate environmental proposals before they become public; cuts the EPA budget by 12% and the staff by 11%; and dismantles the solar water heating system on the roof of the White House.
By 1985 Global Warming is once again highlighted by Nature magazine—the hole over the Arctic is growing—declining about 4% per decade since the 1970s—the study confirmed by Nimbus-7. Since that time we have seen a rise in sea level, a rise in the earth’s average temperature and in ocean temperature, shrinking glaciers, ocean acidification, extreme events, glacial retreat, and decreased snow cover. Still, they are those who continue to deny the science of global warming, in spite of fate fact that the world’s scientific community has confirmed the facts.
Should you need facts at your finger tips, as well as the observations by America’s top science societies, visit the NASA site: http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/
Perhaps as we grow in our appreciation of what is at stake, we can remember the words of Mahatma Ghandi: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”