Shifting Sands: The Restoration of the Calumet Area

By Kenneth J. Schoon | Go to book overview

8
EARTH CONSCIOUSNESS
IN THE ‘60S AND ‘70s

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens
can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

CONCERN FOR THE ENVIRONMENT BEGAN DECADES BEFORE the start of the major environmental movement and the passage of environment-related laws. People who lived near heavy industry didn’t like dirty air, but they believed industrial smoke was a necessary evil. No industry or community wanted to have to spend vast amounts of money cleaning up its waste, because doing so would be so expensive that companies thought it would put them out of business. And certainly no business wanted to be the first to do so, knowing that if its competitors didn’t do the same, it would likely go bankrupt.

One of the first government environmental initiatives was the establishment in 1872 of Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park. In 1891 John Muir founded the Sierra Club. And with other national parks being created, in 1916 the National Park Service was founded. The government started to directly address environmental pollution issues as early as 1948, when the Federal Water Pollution Control Act was passed. That law confirmed that water pollution was not good but said that controlling it was up to the states. The federal government’s role was defined as support and help for technical research to devise methods of treatment for industrial waste. In spite of its name, the act achieved little.

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