A Twisted Road to Earth Day: Air Pollution as an Issue of Social Movements after World War II
When environmental awareness and activism reached record heights in 1970, air pollution was one of the key issues. Earth Day celebrations frequently referred to pollution problems, and hearings on air pollution drew mass audiences everywhere. In Cleveland, the Air Conservation Committee of the Tuberculosis and Respiratory Disease Association of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County started a newsletter, which noted in its rst issue that “Clevelanders have every right to be militant about pollution”; on other occasions, the Air Conservation Committee sounded a “breathers alert.”1 In Missoula, Montana, environmentalists staged what they called “the rst anti-pollution ‘y-in’ in the nation” on 8 March 1970, when thirteen planes circled a nearby pulp mill. One month later, a University of Montana ecology group called “the Environmentalists” chose four issues for a three-week long observance that overlapped with the national Earth Day celebrations, and pollution gured alongside population, pesticides, and recycling on their agenda.2 It was by all means tting that on 18 December 1970 an air pollution hearing in the State Health Building in Atlanta, Georgia, voted as its rst item of business to move to the nearby Central Presbyterian Church because the original conference room did not have su cient space for all participants. A er all,
the move not only mirrored the unexpected turnout at that hearing but also a crucial shi of the arena. From now on, decisions on air pollution issues would no longer be taken at obscure meetings in administrative buildings but in plain view of the public.