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Pushing to Push On

The push for policy change in the United States' Environmental Movement in the mid-1900s

Published onMay 06, 2021
Pushing to Push On

In the United States in the mid-1900s, many people grew frightened of the human causes of the quality of the environment. People were scared the water and air were too dirty, there was too big of a decrease of plant and animal life, and the environment was being destroyed. This fear of humanity surviving into the future due to the negative effects on the environment, led to people fighting for change. Americans during this time, turned to seeking political change that allowed for laws and rules to be set for companies, people, and daily life so that the world wouldn’t be destroyed as we know it. The push for change led to a movement of Americans striving to make a difference in the environment through seeking the governments help. The policies that were put in place to help the environment were the highlight of the Environmental Movement between the 1950s to 1970s. 

The movement was taking hold in the mid-1900s and different organizations were created to push for better environmental quality. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency was made during this time and highlighted the movement. The agency pushed in allowing the government to incite change for the environment and took a look at “heightened public concerns.” 1 In the 70s, more people were growing concerned of contamination, littering, and the air and water cleanliness. People were continuing to advocate for protection, including many activists who wrote works to draw attention to how humanity negatively affected the environment through chemicals, deforestation, plastic, industrialization, and other polluting habits. In concern, the first Earth Day was created to celebrate and honor the protection of the Earth. This holiday is still around today and made a landmark of the Environmental Movement’s progress. The Genius of Earth Day,2talks about the unifying cause of the movement and how Earth Day came to be and why it is so significant in helping people protect the Earth. Looking at this article and at this day of advocating, you see people used this day to stand up for the Earth and without the creation of this holiday, I do not believe the Movement would have been as powerful in its landmark legislation. Researchers also documented the environmental changes happening across the country, including images of the water, cars and trash buildup, the air, and smug. The image below shows the amount of cars that go from day to day life exhausting the air and then the way they buildup when they are done being used. This was a significant way to show how the movement needed people to gain awareness for their production of harm to the environment.

The acts that were passed in the movement were highlights of the Environmental Movement as well. Acts like the Environmental Policy Act of 1970, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 were a few in the Movement that protected the environment and gained more attention to the Movement. There were policies that pushed to depollute the water and air, save animal and plant species, and allow for natural resources to be restored. The National Environmental Policy Act strived to implement “the recognition of the responsibility of each generation to enhance and maintain the greatest extent possible, the quality of the environment for the benefit of future generations.”3The movement pushed people to realize that each citizen has an opportunity to give back to the Earth and a “responsibility to contribute to the preservation and enhancement of the environment.”4 The United States’ Environmental Movement truly was shaped around people wanting a future on the Earth and still have quality in the environment. This push was vital in enforcing change in the government. 

The highlight of the Environmental Movement in this country was the legislation and political attention. People were pushing the government to enforce ways that saved the environment rather than hinder the future beauty of it. The Movement called on the American people to stand up for the environment and I believe the Earth would be drastically different without the policies that were implemented in the mid-1900s. If there are no more species, no clean water, contaminated air, lack of plant life- what will we become?

[1]Adam, Rome, “The Genius of Earth Day.” (Environmental History 15, no. 2, April 2010): 194–205.

[2]“The Origins of EPA.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, January 13, 2021. 

[3] Victor J. Yannocone Jr.“National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.” (Environmental Law 1, no. 1 1970): 8.

[4] Victor J. Yannocone Jr.“National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.” (Environmental Law 1, no. 1 1970): 9.

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