The American people in the 1960s had reasons to worry about the air they breathed, the water they drank, the food they ate, and the hazardous wastes found in their communities or transported through them. Industrial processes that produced much-desired consumer goods also produced waste that was dumped into streams or blown into the atmosphere. Automobiles consumed huge quantities of natural resources and pumped substantial quantities of pollutants into the air. The streets and roads on which automobiles traveled and the space required for parking took up large parts of the landscape. Tankers that brought petroleum to the United States burst open when they ran aground, and off-shore oil wells were susceptible to leaking, as happened in the Santa Barbara channel in 1969.
A spokesman for the Public Health Service (PHS) reported that annual household, commercial, municipal, and industrial wastes totaled 360 million tons. Only 6 percent of the nation's 12,000 landfill disposal sites, according to the PHS, met even less-than-minimum standards for sanitary landfills. Of the 300 incinerators used for disposal of waste, 70 percent were without adequate air pollution control systems. Consumers' preference for disposable cans, bottles, and other packaging, as well as their general resistance to recycling, caused the bulk in landfills to multiply. Consequently, before pointing fingers at others, consumers had first to look in mirrors to see the source of many environmental problems.
Survival may not have been an immediate concern, but the welfare of