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Environmental Movement

By ktcaskey Nov 21, 2011 1007 Words
Jonathan Gearty
“Give Earth a Chance”
The Environmental movement of the 1960s opened doors for long time conservationists and preservationists. I should say though, the movement did not originate in the 1960s, but became a more apparent situation due to the changing effects of our nation during this time. Theodore Roosevelt had a part in the environmental movement, but of course, this took place in the late 19th century. He was responsible for several preservation policies that nearly doubled national parks. Historically, this movement has changed the way American industrial businesses have had to operate and led to numerous government policies and regulations. The movement made way for the Environmental Protection Agency as well. The modern Environmental movement in the United States is often dated to the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring. This seminal description, by an articulate scientist on the dangers of the chemical era to the environment and to human health, struck a responsive chord with the general public and among opinion leaders. After WWII the industrial chemical community created many synthetic pesticides and herbicides which hadn’t been regulated or even tested on the long term ecological effect of nature or its inhabitants. Even though these harsh chemicals worked better than any previously used before, the devastating effects would be an eye opening “wake up” call for many citizens of the United States. Although, some people didn’t feel the effects of DDT were harmful to humans and nature the scientific studies of Rachel Carson and Edwin Way Teale proved otherwise. In the 1970s widespread damage to wildlife led to a ban on the use of DDT, DDE and DDD in most industrialized countries, but is still used in some countries.

Ibis eggs that failed to hatch as a result of DDT. Photo by George Silk, TimePix.

Teale wrote an article in Nature magazine in March of 1945 revealing the harms of using this chemical, unfortunately his article was widely ignored. This was probably due to the use of this chemical during World War II. Rachel Carson quietly sounded an alarm for the world to recognize the harms in polluting the world with dangerous chemicals. By the early 1960s, after intense spraying worldwide, particularly of DDT, reports of malformed animals and their eggs began to surface and the alarms on DDT’s hazard became an apparent shock to most people. She told the world the truth behind the chemicals that caused such atrocities not only to animals but humans as well. When her book Silent Spring was published in 1962 it created a heated debate between conservationists and the chemical industry. The chemical industry publicly denounced the book. The pesticide manufacturers made valiant efforts to educate the public about the benefits and importance of pesticides in 1962, by mailing out monthly news stories to the mass media. Furthermore, the president of the industry-backed American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) said, “- in the opinion of the ACSH - the benefits of DDT's power to kill insects who may carry diseases that threaten humans outweigh the chemical's effects on wildlife and humans. In addition, ACSH questions whether DDT affects wildlife and humans adversely at all.” Carson’s particular warning against 12 of the most harmful chemical poisons gave rise to the modern environmental movement as we know it today. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is still affecting our thinking and policymaking today. Rachel’s message was one of working with nature and not against it. The public’s response to this remarkable book was one of discontent. With advancement of industrial society Americans began to focus less on work and more on home, families and leisure, and on non-work related activities. One aspect of these new found values of life was, and is, insisting on a higher quality of the surrounding environment which included the air, water, and land. This brought the American public to pressure political officials in the regulation of certain dangerous chemicals. During this time the U.S. government distorted the reality of harm caused by such chemicals. In this cartoon, the U.S. government tries to fool the American people into thinking dangerous chemicals are safe for wildlife and humans as well as using it in production of our food supply.

This new found love for outdoor leisure activities, and concerns for the environment pressed Congress to pass the Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act (1960) which added the recreational use of national forests, which had been previously limited to such acts as timber collection and protection, watershed protection and wildlife and fish protection. The Act also limited the use of herbicides and pesticides in the areas protected under this act. The year prior to this act Congress also passed the first research act which orders the Secretary of the Interior to “undertake continuing research on biological fluctuations, status, and statistics of the migratory marine species of game fish of the United States and contiguous waters.” This act gives the public access to the findings and causes of fluctuations in migrating fish as well as any evidence pertaining to the use of chemicals causing these effects.

[ 1 ]. Goldstein, Bernard. eNotes, "Environmental Movement." Accessed October 14, 2011. [ 2 ]. Silk, George. Science, Civilization, and Society, "Environmental damage from DDT." Accessed October 20, 2011. [ 3 ]. Mark Grossman, The Environmental Movement, (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, Inc., 1994), 74. [ 4 ]. McLaughlin, Dorothy. "Silent Spring Revisited." Frontline Online, . (accessed November 20, 2011). [ 5 ]. Mark Grossman, The Environmental Movement, (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, Inc., 1994), 42-44. [ 6 ]. Roberts, D. Th!nkAboutIt, "DDT: Sniffing Out Excellent White Powder." Accessed October 15, 2011. [ 7 ]. Mark Grossman, The Environmental Movement, (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, Inc., 1994),377 [ 8 ]. Mark Grossman, The Environmental Movement, (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, Inc., 1994),376-77

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