In the late 1960s to 1970s, Americans realized that industry was doing serious damage to air, water, and the earth itself, the most essential natural resources. The whole awareness of the damage being done to the environment stemmed out from the energy crisis of the 1970s.
The energy crisis was a ‘slap-in-the-face’ for America. They needed to realize the harm that was being done to the natural resources and their decreasing availability as a result. With the decreasing availability and increasing prices of oil, new energy sources had to be discovered. Although scientists found nuclear power to be a clean, cheap, and unlimited source of power at first, the environmentalists fought to minimize its usage for fear of nuclear meltdowns, which could spread nuclear waste.
Alternative energy sources were possible, and what appeared to be the most effective were tidal energy and solar energy. These environmentally safe methods of harnessing energy were just what the environmentalists had aimed for, and a new movement had been started – environmentalism. If you read this circle it. The environmentalists also tried to advocate the conservation of energy, so that the cleaner but less effective ways could be manipulated to produce more energy.
Despite many efforts to keep the environment clean, some 200 million tons of pollutants were filling the air each year, and clean air in many cities had been replaced by smog. The earth, air, and water were deteriorating as construction of highways, malls, and housing developments caused the destruction of fertile, irreplaceable farmland. Disposal of wastes was another dilemma to be dealt with. Burning could release poisonous gases into the air, and burial could cause harmful decay.
By the mid-1960s, people began to really realize the need to conserve the nation’s resources. Much credit for arousing public concern belonged to Rachel Carson for her book Silent Spring. This book warned of the central problem of our age being the contamination of man’s environment. During the next few years, growing numbers of ecologists, biologists, and other scientists showed their concern about the reckless abuse of the environment.
In 1970, Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which helped set laws regulating use of pesticides, insecticides, and other potentially dangerous sprays. They protected endangered wildlife, and ordered that car manufacturers had to provide pollution control devices on exhausts of their vehicles. New waste disposal and sewage treatment plants were being built to prevent further pollution of the land and water and to clean up the rivers and lakes. Government also regulated unsightly junkyards and dumps to restore the natural beauty of the countryside. Federal government set aside more areas as national parks, not to be tampered with, and considerable progress had been made in the management and conservation of America’s forests, soil, and water.
However, many people felt that it was not necessary for the government to take all this action. President Reagan gave in and allowed the search for minerals on federal lands and oil exploration off the coast of California, which some felt was very risky, because of the chance of an oil spill, which would devastate all ocean life in the area.
Environmental decisions were important in the sixties era, as many other nations followed them with concern. With the world’s population increasing so rapidly, the earth’s natural resources will be heavily taxed, and many people, the environmentalists, believed that resource conservation was extremely important in maintaining the living conditions of the world population.