Closing the Environmental Decade

November 16, 1979

Report Outline
Assessment of the Seventies
Origins of Environmentalism
Changes in the Movement
Special Focus

Assessment of the Seventies

Question of Sustaining 1970s Momentum

New Year's Day 1980 will mark the tenth anniversary of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which had as its principal objective the encouragement of a “productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment.” President Nixon made the NEPA signing ceremony on Jan. 1, 1970, his first official act of the new decade, saying that “the 1970s absolutely must be the years when America pays its debt to the past by reclaiming the purity of its air, its waters, and our living environment.” Many Americans agreed that the environment deserved far greater attention, and on April 22, 1970, less than four months after Nixon inaugurated the environmental decade, thousands of people gathered in cities and communities around the country to celebrate Earth Day.

Now that the Seventies are drawing to a close, many of the people who first met on Earth Day to demonstrate in favor of a better environment are planning to commemorate the occasion and celebrate the achievements of the past decade. But the festivities may be somewhat muted. For there is widespread fear that environmental concerns will fare poorly in the Eighties, as efforts to augment domestic energy supplies and reduce the costs associated with pollution abatement loom ever larger in the nation's affairs. President Carter, who received some of his strongest support from conservationists during his first two years in office, now is in trouble with environmentalists largely because of his attempts to expedite energy projects of urgent national interest.

To be sure, Americans are most unlikely to revert in the next decade to the habits of an era in which the quality of their air, water and land received little or no attention. In contrast to the situation 10 years ago, when environmentalists were widely regarded as kooky hippies who wanted to give up all the gifts of modern industrial civilization for the sake of returning to a mythical world of plants and animals, environmentalism today is firmly entrenched in the nation's consciousness. The jargon of environmentalism — “ecological balance,” “recycling,” “renewable resources” — has become a part of every educated person's working vocabulary. The small groups of activists who organized Earth Day in 1970 have developed into large, highly professional organizations. But such organizations probably will be working under increasingly adverse conditions in the Eighties, and most environmentalists doubt that the major legislative achievements of the 1970s will be duplicated in the next decade.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Environmental Protection
Mar. 17, 2023  Forever Chemicals
Sep. 02, 2022  Preserving the Seas
Jun. 17, 2022  Plastic Pollution
Dec. 17, 2021  Endangered Species
Nov. 06, 2020  Preventing Wildfires
Jul. 10, 2020  Circular Economy
Nov. 29, 2019  Climate Change and Health
Sep. 20, 2019  Extreme Weather
Dec. 07, 2018  Plastic Pollution
Dec. 02, 2016  Arctic Development
Apr. 22, 2016  Managing Western Lands
Jul. 18, 2014  Regulating Toxic Chemicals
Sep. 20, 2013  Future of the Arctic
Jun. 14, 2013  Climate Change
Nov. 06, 2012  Vanishing Biodiversity
Nov. 02, 2012  Managing Wildfires
Nov. 04, 2011  Managing Public Lands
Aug. 26, 2011  Gulf Coast Restoration
Jul. 2010  Plastic Pollution
Feb. 2010  Climate Change
Jan. 09, 2009  Confronting Warming
Dec. 05, 2008  Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
Nov. 2008  Carbon Trading
Oct. 03, 2008  Protecting Wetlands
Feb. 29, 2008  Buying Green
Dec. 14, 2007  Future of Recycling
Nov. 30, 2007  Disappearing Species
Feb. 2007  Curbing Climate Change
Dec. 01, 2006  The New Environmentalism
Jan. 27, 2006  Climate Change
Oct. 25, 2002  Bush and the Environment
Oct. 05, 2001  Invasive Species
Nov. 05, 1999  Saving Open Spaces
Jun. 11, 1999  Saving the Rain Forests
May 21, 1999  Setting Environmental Priorities
Mar. 19, 1999  Partisan Politics
Oct. 16, 1998  National Forests
Jun. 19, 1998  Environmental Justice
Aug. 23, 1996  Cleaning Up Hazardous Wastes
Mar. 31, 1995  Environmental Movement at 25
Jun. 19, 1992  Lead Poisoning
May 15, 1992  Jobs Vs. Environment
Jan. 17, 1992  Oil Spills
Sep. 20, 1991  Saving the Forests
Apr. 26, 1991  Electromagnetic Fields: Are They Dangerous?
Sep. 08, 1989  Free Market Environmental Protection
Dec. 09, 1988  Setting Environmental Priorities
Jul. 29, 1988  Living with Hazardous Wastes
Dec. 20, 1985  Requiem for Rain Forests?
Aug. 17, 1984  Protecting the Wilderness
Jun. 15, 1984  Troubled Ocean Fisheries
Aug. 19, 1983  America's Disappearing Wetlands
Feb. 22, 1980  Noise Control
Nov. 16, 1979  Closing the Environmental Decade
Oct. 13, 1978  Toxic Substance Control
Feb. 27, 1976  Pollution Control: Costs and Benefits
Nov. 28, 1975  Forest Policy
May 30, 1975  Wilderness Preservation
Dec. 20, 1974  Environmental Policy
Nov. 14, 1973  Strip Mining
Dec. 01, 1971  Global Pollution
Jul. 21, 1971  Protection of the Countryside
Jan. 06, 1971  Pollution Technology
Jun. 19, 1968  Protection of the Environment
Oct. 30, 1963  Noise Suppression
Air Pollution