Posted by: greeningwashington | February 25, 2009

A Brief History

 We stand now where two roads diverge. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork in the road – “the one less traveled” – offers our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth.

 Forty seven years ago Rachel Carson presented America with this choice. Her message was urgent yet her words were eloquent and pointed. For many, Carson’s message signaled the beginning of the environmental era and the end of environmental apathy. 

 Earth Day 1970 was the birth of the modern environmental movement as approximately 20 million people participated in sustainable events nationwide. The 1970s was the environmental decade. Legislation including the landmark Clean Air and Clean Water Acts were passed. Americans realized their shared environmental values and fought against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, toxic dump sites, raw sewage, harmful pesticides such as DDT, unfettered deforestation, loss of wilderness, and the extinction of valuable wildlife. No longer were they complacent letting big business pollute their communities and damage pristine American wilderness.

 The environmental decade died with the election of Ronal Reagan in 1980. Reagan was the first president to bring to Washington an “avowedly antienvironmental agenda.” In an attempt to scale back important environmental policies of the 1970s, which he viewed as fundamentally at odds with industrial growth, Reagan did several things. First, he appointed anti environmentalists to key agencies and cabinet positions; he deeply cut funding to environmental agencies and programs and eliminated or revised regulations. Reagan attempted to abolish the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), but when he met opposition in Congress he simply cut funding, staff and shut them out of his administration. Since the 1980s, agencies such as the EPA have been caught in an ideological cycle varying from one president to another.

 The Reagan presidency did, however, revive and inspire many environmental groups into action.

 Under the Clinton presidency, many would argue that he was too modest in his environmental initiatives.

 All of this history brings me to my generation. I was 13 years old when President George W. Bush took office. I never imagined the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision or how the next eight years would shape my view of the world.

 Under the Bush Administration, environmental policies and politics were overshadowed by foreign policy issues. While Bush’s 2005 Energy Policy Act attempted to tackle more issues than in his 2001 energy plan, criticism was harsh. Specifically, the plan did not address key issues such as fuel efficiency, reduced dependence on imported oil, or mandatory regulation of greenhouse gases.

 As my generation became more active and aware, it was hard to watch the President deny any link between global warming and humans. Either the science wasn’t “conclusive enough” to take action, or the President and his Congress stalled.

 With the election of President Obama, the rhetoric has changed so completely that I feel compelled to dedicate one blog entry to my observations.

 Green Energy is finally on the agenda. Environmentalists can come to the table. Instead of being the minority, I feel empowered. An era of balking and careless policies is over.

 I am amazed by the number of environmental grassroots organizations today especially organizations geared toward students and teenagers.

 The rhetoric is there, and I sincerely believe President Obama believes in green energy and green jobs.

 This weekend, Power Shift, a grassroots environmental organization will bring over 10,000 young people to Washington to push for green legislation.

 Until next time.


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