a talk and slideshow by David Ramsay
During the late 1960s in the United States, social and political unrest rocked the country as thousands protested the Vietnam War, riots broke out in cities in response to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, while the Hippies celebrated Woodstock.
Amidst the chaos in June 1969, an oil slick on the Cuyahoga River – a tributary to Lake Erie – polluted from decades of industrial waste – caught fire, causing $100,000 worth of damage to two railroad bridges. In Maine, the Androscoggin River was so badly polluted that local retailers in Lewiston and Auburn closed during the summer months.
Then, emerging from this environmental challenge and the social chaos, a ray of hope: Earth Day 1970.
In the early 1970s, US Maine Senator Ed Muskie, who had gained a reputation for addressing pollution on the Androscoggin River, led Congress in creating a bold, comprehensive national environmental protection program. Equally important, nonprofit environmental groups were born, becoming the watchdog champions of these program. During the years that followed, the scope of the movement broadened to include environmental justice, urban open space, river restoration, and much more. Recently, a re-enlivened interest in environment, fueled by an existential fear of climate change signals a shift in public attitudes and possibly a breaking of the political logjam at the national level.
David Ramsay worked for 25 years on the field of environment, including river/watershed groups, consulting, staff for state legislature, and state government. In 1970, he helped organize the first Earth Day where he was teaching..