Victories Since the First Earth Day: A 40th Anniversary Timeline

Since the first Earth Day 40 years ago, America has become a cleaner, safer, more beautiful place with less pollution and many endangered species rescued from the brink.  Here is just a sampling of the good things that have happened since 1970 and the first Earth Day.

1970 – President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a mission to protect the environment and public health.

1972 – The EPA banned DDT, a carcinogenic pesticide, featured in Rachel Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring.”

1972 – The Clean Water Act was passed at a time when only 40% of major rivers in the U.S. were safe enough for swimming. Today, about 70% are safe enough.

1973 – EPA began phasing out leaded gasoline, a source of air pollution, banning it fully by 1986.

1974– Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, allowing EPA to regulate the quality of public drinking water.

1978 – The federal government banned chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) as propellants in aerosol cans because CFCs destroy the ozone layer, which protects the planet from harmful ultraviolet radiation.

1979 – EPA banned cancer-causing PCB production and use.

1980 – Congress created the Superfund to clean up hazardous waste sites, and require payment from polluting companies to finance clean up of the most hazardous sites.

1988 – Congress passed the Sewage Ocean-dumping Ban against sewage sludge and industrial waste.

1991 – Under an order from President George H.W. Bush, the US government started recycling on the federal level.

1992 – The ENERGY STAR program was first created by the U.S. Department of Energy to help us all save money — and conserve energy — through the use of energy efficient products. The program has since been adopted around the world.

1999 – President Bill Clinton announced new emissions standards for cars, sport utility vehicles, minivans and trucks, requiring them to be 77 to 95 percent cleaner in future years.

1999 – The largest unprotected grove of ancient redwoods in the world came under protection after Pacific Lumber agreed to accept federal and state funds totaling nearly a quarter billion dollars in exchange for preservation of the 10,000 acre Headwaters Forest.

2001 – Australia ended commercial coral harvesting on the Great Barrier Reef to protect the world’s largest living reef formation.

2002 – WWF partnered with Brazil to launch the world’s largest tropical forest conservation program, carving out 12 years of strict preservation and the establishment of 62 million acres of new protected areas – a swath about the size of Wyoming.

2006 – The Bush Administration encircled Hawaii with the world’s largest marine preserve, home to 7000 marine species, at least a quarter of which are found nowhere else. The huge sanctuary is larger than all U.S. National Parks combined, stretching the distance from Chicago to Florida.

2007One billion trees were planted by citizens around the world in just one year in the UN’s Billion Tree Campaign.

2008 – Americans are tossing less litter despite the fact that there are more people on the roads. “Experts estimate that deliberate trash-tossing has fallen about 2% per year since the mid-’70s.”

2008Bald eagles this year soared off the endangered species list after nearly four decades, their population climbing from a dismal count of just 417 nesting pairs in the continental United States in 1963 to more than 11,000 today.

2009 – The Obama Administration, environmentalists and the auto industry formally reach an agreement for the production of significantly more energy-efficient vehicles.

2010 – A $2.2 billion five-year blueprint for rescuing the Great Lakes from toxic contamination and invasive species was launched by the Obama administration developed .

2010 – The Earth lost fewer trees in the last decade, as global deforestation rates fell over the past ten years by more than 18 percent, according to the UN’s Global Forest Resources Assessment, which studied 233 countries.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” -Maria Robinson


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