America, before the EPA: the photos that the EPA commissioned to document the conditions that led to its formation


Originally published at:


Don’t worry our current government is working hard to fix the mistake made by Nixon.


Ah, yes. The good old days.


My life long asthma and bronchitis thanks tRump’s toady Pruitt for destroying the EPA.


For all you Millenials reading, that’s what America looked like when it was Great™.


When I was in elementary school they used to show a short film called the Ark. It shaped my first thoughts regarding protecting the environment even as my dad used to rant about how the elitist environmentalists were going to destroy us all. When my brother started doing lake surveys while in college for wildlife management he used to take me on back pack trips with him. My first trip was when I was 12 y/o. Then, Soylent Green came out and I was convinced humans would inevitably destroy ourselves and the Earth’s environment unless we made groundshaking changes in our lifestyles. When I reached adulthood, we kept electing right wingers who pushed the environment out of the equation. Then, we elected trump. Yes, I know Nixon created the EPA. But his party also is currently destroying it.

The Ark. I just watched it again for the first time in 45 years. The soundtrack is pretty awful, but it sure brought back memories. My goodness how far we have fallen in our ideals as a nation.


Maybe I’m still too young to get it, but… at a certain age, or after some amount of time, do people just not remember what the past was actually like, even if they try to?


For people with a living memory of the past it’s a willful forgetting that serves their own selfish interests, the future be damned. Pruitt and his ilk see this idyllic scene from “Mad Men” as something to return to:

The larger problem occurs when shocking and horrible times die out of living memory. We’re seeing that now with the return of right-wing populism in the West.


(sniff sniff…) Ahhh the smell of progress!


Bring back burning rivers!


To be fair, I’ve recently fished the banks of the Ohio in Louisville, and there is still a ton of crap in it.

But at least they reckon by 2036 the PCB’s will finally have decayed in Lake Michigan and you can eat most of the fish again. Hell, Chicago might again have a commercial fishery like they have up far north.

And yet, a lot of fisherman are pro-Trump, and want to kill the EPA. There doesn’t seem to be any way to get them to understand that in electing the EPA killer, they are harming their favorite pastime.


As a millenial: What a shithole


I worked for the EPA in the 70s. Sometimes for days after a plant inspection (these were usually done in two or more back-to-back shifts) every time I blew my nose the output would be black. The worst were coal-fired power plants and steel mills. Good thing Trump wants to bring these back!


You get different types among outdoor enthusiasts, it’s not just hunting and fishing. Many I know are cognizant of the need for advocacy and conservation, and many of the conservative-leaning ones I know are at least quietly uncomfortable with the cognitive dissonance (unless they’re the type to handwave any of it as ‘God/survival-of-the-fittest will sort it out’)

I volunteer with a local mountain biking organization to advocate for and maintain trails and promote outreach to other usergroups. Even within our own group it can be hard to get everyone on the same page. A good example is riding during the spring thaw in our area. Due to our local climate, terrain, and soil types, riding during the thaw leaves deeper ruts than normal which contribute to erosion and draining problems. This requires repair to prevent the erosion from getting out of hand creating a permanent wet spot and causing people to ride or walk out of the trail corridor, widening the trail and causing further issues. People still love to argue (especially people who don’t volunteer for maintenance) that ‘noone can tell them what to do’ and go ride during the thaw anyways because ‘I’m just one guy’. But it’s not just one guy, it’s one guy and thirty other Strava-McOnyerleft who can’t wait four more damn weeks.

My point is trying to get a large group of people to agree on something then follow through is like herding cats, except the cats are all black, the room is pitch-black, you’re blind and wearing sunglasses, and everything is on fire.


Keep America Beautiful - the iconic commercial from 1971


Out West here, the big thing is hatchery vs wild salmon and steelhead. The Trumpists respond to the decline in salmon returns with a call for more hatchery fish; nevermind that hatchery salmon and steelhead reduce the survival of the few remaining wild juveniles, making the problem worse. Add in the call for catch-and-kill of wild fish in the few years when the return is good (“good” being about 10% of historical mean), and you get a prime example of “shortsighted to the point of not seeing the end of one’s nose.”


Oh yeah, we have some of those folks out here, too. Amateur fisheries management scientists.

They often take juvenile fish out of the water, and toss them on the bank (or take them home to plant in their garden as fertilizer) based off the logic that reducing competition for forage will yield on average larger trophy fish. They reckon they are feeding the local raccoons (maybe?).

Fisheries biologists might make such a conclusion, but only after measuring the population and other metrics of the water body. Which of course, these armchair biologists don’t do. (Why would they?)


Some of both, really. It appears, for example, that having children really does destroy memory of what it was like to be a kid. This is useful. For the rest, after a few decades, all kinds of things fade into the sort of haze that actors of a certain age are required to be filmed through.


That makes sense. I’m only 31 and there are already things that feel like they happened to someone else.


That makes me sick. You get that with rocky mountain whitefish from Colorado to Alaska. Even some relatively environmentally aware fly fisherman (complete with “catch and release wild trout” bumper stickers) will toss a whitefish on the bank. That’s a native species with an ecological niche, coexisting with trout for millenia. SMH.