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Chapter 1: Overview of Environmental Issues ............................ 7 Chapter 2: Should Government Protect the Environment? ........ 23 Chapter 3: Should Genetically Modified Foods Be Prohibited? .. 43 Chapter 4: Is Nuclear Power a Viable Alternative Energy Source? ...................................... 61 Chapter 5: Should Hydraulic Fracking Be Permitted? ................ 83 Series Glossary of Key Terms ................................................... 100 Organizations to Contact . ....................................................... 101 Further Reading . ..................................................................... 102 Internet Resources . ................................................................. 102 Chapter Notes .......................................................................... 103 Index ....................................................................................... 108 Author’s Biography and Credits . ............................................. 112 K E Y I C O N S T O L O O K F O R : Words to Understand: These words with their easy-to-understand definitions will increase the reader’s understanding of the text while building vocabulary skills. Sidebars: This boxed material within the main text allows readers to build knowledge, gain insights, explore possibilities, and broaden their perspectives by weaving together additional information to provide realistic and holistic perspectives. Educational videos: Readers can view videos by scanning our QR codes, providing them with additional educational content to supplement the text. Examples include news coverage, moments in history, speeches, iconic sports moments, and much more! Text-Dependent Questions: These questions send the reader back to the text for more careful attention to the evidence presented there. Research Projects: Readers are pointed toward areas of further inquiry connected to each chapter. Suggestions are provided for projects that encourage deeper research and analysis. Series Glossary of Key Terms: This back-of-the-book glossary contains terminology used throughout this series. Words found here increase the reader’s ability to read and comprehend higher-level books and articles in this field.

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WORDS TO UNDERSTAND alternative energy— energy that is generally thought to be better for the environment because it is derived from sources that don’t utilize nuclear power or fossil fuels. climate change— a change in the patterns of the earth’s climate due to high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that became evident in the mid 20th century. environmental movement— a social, scientific, and political movement focused on conservation of the earth and its resources. DDT— a pesticide derived from a synthetic compound that is incredibly harmful to the environment and to human health. Industrial Revolution— a period of time within human history that brought about the use of new manufacturing processes, generally believed to have lasted from 1760 to sometime around 1840.



On April 22, 1970, millions of people across the United States banded together in order to celebrate the first Earth Day. Originally proposed by US Senator Gaylord Nelson, the premise behind the day was to celebrate na- ture and recognize the problems that nega- tively affect the environment. The hope was to build awareness and to educate the general

public on environmental issues. This first Earth Day was deemed highly successfully. It helped lead to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that same year, as well as the passage of important legislation: the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Over time, Earth Day has become a global event, with people all over the world coming together to encourage their fellow citizens to do what they can to pro- tect the earth. While it may seem a little silly to have an entire day dedicated to the planet earth, it is important to realize that environmental awareness was not always cultivated in the general populace. In the immediate years leading up to 1970, Americans watched as oil spills, air pollution, water pollution, and other environmental issues impacted their


A teenager in a canoe picks trash out of the Potomac River in Washington, DC, during the first Earth Day celebration in April 1970. Young people have been driving the environmental movement since the 1970s.

daily lives. In fact, by the year 1960 the levels of carbon di- oxide in the atmosphere had climbed to a stunning number of 300 parts per million worldwide. On January 28, 1969, the Santa Barbara oil well spilled more than 200,000 gal- lons of oil into the ocean for nearly two weeks. This caused massive amounts of pollution and damage to the coast- lines of California. On June 22, 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, Ohio, seemed to catch on fire. While the river itself was not on fire, the chemicals and oil present on the surface of the water burned.


Contemporary Issues: The Environment

While issues like the preservation of various species of animals, plants, and insects have always been with us, other environmental issues are of a more modern nature. Since the Industrial Revolution , the utilization of fos- sil fuels as a source of energy has contributed to global climate change , as well as our air pollution and water pollution levels. Along with being destructive to the en- vironment and leading to changes in our climate, these issues also pose a direct threat the human health and de- velopment. These issues contribute to an array of diseases, chronic health issues, birth defects, and more. They also impact our food and water supplies in a negative manner. Over 7.7 billion people currently call the planet earth their home. While the earth is full of resources that help to ensure the survival of those 7.7 billion (and counting) peo- ple, there are a number of issues that threaten the stability of the environment. These issues range from a finite num- ber of resources to pollution to climate change to endan- gered species and much more. Protecting our environment and ensuring that the earth remains habitable for humans for years to come is imperative. The environmental movement has sought to find the solutions to these issues. EARLY YEARS While the environmental movement is generally under- stood to have officially begun in the 1960s and 1970s, there were some efforts to protect the environment through legislation and nonprofit organizations. In 1901,


Overview of Environmental Issues

A memorial to John Muir near the visitors’ center at Yosemite National Park, California. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Muir was the foremost advocate for preserving unspoiled wildlife. He helped to create the Sierra Club, which today remains an important organization dedicated to preserving the environment.

Theodore Roosevelt became the president of the United States. Roosevelt was a well known advocate of conserva- tion. At one time he wrote, “We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil, and the gas are exhausted, when the soils have still further impoverished


Contemporary Issues: The Environment

and washed into the streams, polluting the rivers, denud- ing the fields and obstructing navigation.” 3 Roosevelt used his powers as president to create public lands that were to be conserved as national forests. This system of National Parks continued to grow both during and after Roosevelt’s presidency. Roosevelt also established the United States Forest Service (USFS) in 1905.

President Theodore Roosevelt poses for a photo at Glacier Point, Yosemite, in May 1903. Roosevelt was an outdoorsman and hunter, and as president he protected over 230 million acres of public land as national forests or wildlife reserves.


Overview of Environmental Issues

On June 30, 1948, Congress passed the first law that addressed water quality. This piece of legislation was called the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA). This act has since been amended multiple times in order for feder- al government to maintain authority on water quality. In 1950, the Nature Conservancy was founded. The Nature Conservancy is “a nonprofit organization with the mission


Rachel Carson and her work are often cited as one of the foundations of the modern environmental movement. Carson was a marine biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She mostly worked as a writer and editor for the organization. In 1962, Carson wrote Silent Spring . She was led to write the book due to the growing evidence before her that both the government and various forms of industry were misusing pesticides in a way that would have severe negative impacts on both people and the environment. The book detailed “the dangers to all natural systems from the misuse of chemical pesticides such as DDT, and questioned the scope and direction of modern science.” 5 After World War II, DDT had become a popular pesticide. It was viewed as an efficient way to kill flies, mosquitoes, and other insects. However, millions of


Contemporary Issues: The Environment

to protect ecologically important lands and waters around the world.” 4 The first piece of legislation that was passed to address air pollution was passed on July 14, 1955. This act is known as the Air Pollution Control Act. These first efforts at establishing protections for the served to lay the foundation for what we currently know as the environmental movement. The modern environmen- tal movement is often contributed to the work of Rachel Carson and her book Silent Spring . This book heavily criti- cized the use of pesticides and eventually led to the United States banning the use of DDT in 1972. Americans were exposed to DDT via chemical sprays. It also entered the food supply, as animals ate smaller creatures that had ingested the DDT chemicals. Carson gathered evidence that the pesticide was dangerous to humans. Some of the effects of DDT include cancer, infertility, low birth weight, developmental delays, and damage to the nervous system. While Carson’s work was heavily attacked by the pesticide industry, her testimony to Congress led in part to the foundation of the Environmental Protection Agency. After her testimony, President John F. Kennedy called for Carson’s evidence to be reviewed. This committee supported Carson’s findings about the negative impacts of DDT and other commonly used pesticides on both the environment and on human health. This support led to DDT being banned in the United States.


Overview of Environmental Issues

GROWTH OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT The modern environmental movement began to take shape during the 1970s. In fact, the year 1970 brought about a number of important events that helped the movement to maintain its momentum. These vents included the pass- ing of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the advent of Earth Day, and the establishment of the EPA by President Richard Nixon. The EPA allowed the federal government to study and develop regulations for environ- mental pollutants. The 1970s featured a slew of legislation that worked to protect the environment. Some of the most significant events included the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Coastal Zone Man- agement Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Safe Drink- ing Water Act (SWDA), and much more. The aim of these

Scan here to learn more about the Endangered Species Act of 1975.


Contemporary Issues: The Environment

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