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DDT WarsRescuing Our National Bird, Preventing Cancer, and Creating EDF$
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Charles F. Wurster

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190219413

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190219413.001.0001

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EDF, Barely an Organization, Getting Its Act Together

EDF, Barely an Organization, Getting Its Act Together

5 (p.73) EDF, Barely an Organization, Getting Its Act Together
DDT Wars

Charles F. Wurster

Oxford University Press

The late 1960s and early 1970s was a world of increasing political unrest on many fronts. In January 1969, Richard Nixon replaced Lyndon Johnson as president. Public support for the war in Vietnam was diminishing and there were widespread antiwar demonstrations. Environmental awareness and concerns were rapidly increasing. Air and water pollution were increasingly severe. A huge oil spill dumped 100,000 barrels of crude oil onto the beaches of Santa Barbara, California. The Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire. Students buried automobiles on college campuses. Lake Erie could no longer support fish. The great whales were being killed in record numbers. People were apprehensive about pesticides. The Bald Eagle, national symbol, was disappearing. The first Earth Day was launched in 1970. Responding to this public outcry, the National Environmental Policy Act passed Congress almost unanimously and became law on January 1, 1970; the Clean Air Act became law in 1970, the Clean Water Act in 1972, and the Endangered Species Act in 1973; and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act was rewritten in 1972. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring had appeared in 1962 and generated a sizable public reaction, but pesticide policies had changed very little by 1970. This was the milieu in which EDF sought to pursue its goals of a national ban on DDT and the development of environmental law. Reaching those goals would require a much more substantial organization than EDF was in 1969; at that time it was little more than a board of trustees with plenty of ideas but no staff, no office, and almost no money. Most of those trustees were going about their normal lives with EDF concerns more like a hobby than a profession. Their dedication was strong and very real, but a strategic game plan was barely in sight. There were additional impediments when compared with today’s world. Forty-five years ago communications barely resembled what we have now. Most television sets were black-and-white with small screens and large bulky bodies, although color TV was arriving slowly. There were no computers or cell phones.

Keywords:   Clean Water Act, Cuyahoga River, Earth Day, Endangered Species Act (ESA), Ford Foundation, Saturday Review, public interest law

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