Sunday, April 12, 2009


The environment and different sources of energy were major topics of the election in 2008, and yet recently this important issue has earned less media attention. Maybe this is because the economy has become the focus of President Obama’s first hundred days and maybe this is because he and other politicians are getting less pressure due to lower prices at the gas pump. Either way the environment was not a new political issue, but rather one that has a significant history in the United States.

As the settlers built the US, the environment was usually considered after development and sometimes raping of the land for minerals or deforestation. People settled in an area, and then they considered their impact on the earth as their own health after establishing cities and towns. Early on prominent the environment sometimes called other terms like public health or conservation became political issues. For example, Ben Franklin petitioned the Pennsylvania Assembly to stop waste dumping in the commercial district and later left money in his will for a fresh water pipeline into Philadelphia due to a link between bad drinking water and disease. Today, former Vice President Al Gore’s An Inconvienent Truth on global warming released in 2006 had an important impact on the modern environmental movement and the election of 2008.

Local societies sprang up in the late 1800s like the Audubon Society and Sierra Club. Interest in the environment grew dramatically after World War II possibly due to higher college enrollments and advancements in ecology. In 1970 the first Earth Day was celebrated and the Environment Protection Agency was established.

The US government created organizations that studied US natural resources and other organizations that protected species and focused on conservation. Addionally in the last twenty years, numerous laws have passed.

National Environmental Policy Act : basic national charter for protection of the environment.
The Clean Air Act : regulates air emissions.
The Clean Water Act : limits water pollution.
The Safe Drinking Water Act : protects the quality of drinking water.
The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act : Inventories hazardous waste sites, assesses liability for these sites, and provides for site cleanups when no responsible party could be identified.
The Endangered Species Act : protects endangered animals and plants and their habitats.
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act : control of pesticides.
The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 : prevents and responds to catastrophic oil spills.

As you enjoy being outside this spring, reflect on the health of the world around you and our environmental footprint.

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