It’s easy to take a pessimistic attitude toward the future of our environment, given recent cabinet appointments and executive orders regarding the environment. But it’s just as important for eco-warriors to remember the victories as well as the steps backwards, because those victories build morale in the movement. Here are just a few of the victories environmentalists have scored since the first Earth Day.
DDT was banned
DDT, an insecticide that was used to increase farm productivity and fight mosquitoes, is now infamous for causing environmental problems including a quadrupling of the risk of breast cancer and thinning of bird eggs’ shells. This shell thinning almost led to the extinction of America’s national symbol, the bald eagle, as well as the peregrine falcon and other endangered bird species. The 1972 ban has made birds—and people—healthier.
Lead was removed from gasoline
Back in the days, lead was added to gasoline in order to enhance the performance of car engines. But scientists began seeing that lead was building up in soils and seriously polluting the environment. In 1974, the EPA began phasing out lead from gasoline. Since then, the average lead level in Americans’ blood has decreased by more than 75 percent, according to National Geographic.
The Superfund was launched
While it’s terrible that it was needed, the fact that the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, commonly known as the Superfund, was launched is a great boon to the environment. The law’s goal is cleaning up toxic sites and allowing the EPA to try and recover the costs of the cleanup from the companies that caused the pollution. Hundreds of sites have been cleaned up since the Superfund was established, but there are many more locations still on the fund’s waiting list.
The ozone hole is healing
In the mid-1980s, scientists noticed that there was a growing hole in the ozone layer, which protects us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. They were concerned that the loss of the ozone layer would lead to massive increases in skin cancer, as well as other problems. They linked the disappearance of the ozone layer to a series of chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). In 1987, many nations came together and established the Montreal Protocol, which outlawed CFCs. Now, the hole in the ozone layer is healing.
A marine monument protects the seas
In 2009, George W. Bush established the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, which protects a number of species of coral, fish, turtles, whales, and more. The monument was expanded by President Barack Obama to nearly 490,000 square miles, which, according to National Geographic, is three times the size of California.
Want to read about some other great environmental victories—one for each year since the first Earth Day? Check out this article in National Geographic!