Rothman 2
How to take action? film (Tim DeChristopher)
Step it Up
              demonstration at Clemson

Today, how would you go about using the political system to address an environmental issue?
What changed the old conservation movement into the new environmental movement was the fight over the Echo Park Dam
So what you need to watch for in this chapter is the change in strategy and tactics and who was involved
Big federal government projects (not in wartime) are a new thing in the 1930s.

The key history leading into this was
the New Deal: big projects run by federal government during the Great Depression
large dam
 Big Ridge Dam, TVA
abandoned house in a field
power farming displaces tenants, Texas 1938

As in the film "The River", dams were built with the idea that humans could control nature
  • The Bureau of Reclamation--federal agency whose job was to make land productive for agriculture--dams and particularly water systems
  • had selected 81 dam sites by the early 1950s
  • that momentum for dam building is successfully challenged in the fight against Echo Park
  • Conservationists/environmentalists successfully mobilized the public against Echo Park Dam
  • note that success was based on public opinion
How do you stop a government project (before there were environmental laws)?
  • get the public to write letters to their congressional representatives
  • what exactly can you stop? funding
  • in the Echo Park case there was a bill in Congress to provide money for 10 dams
  • Bureau of Reclamation offers a compromise: to take out Echo Park Dam
  • the compromise was accepted by the environmental activists
How does the Federal government act on environmental issues in different time periods
  • 1880-1960--government protects some land in national parks and forests
  • the primary way to fight projects harmful to the environment was to persuade Congress to not fund them
  • 1960-1980--government regulation: new laws that limited harm to the environment, many of which applied to both private industry and government
  • after 1980 fewer new laws, more fights in Congress and the courts about how to interpret the laws

The next step was political efforts to protect wilderness--this showed the power of passing new laws
  • Nash covered this story as well, but pay attention in Rothman particularly to what is politically effective and how political tactics change
  • Wilderness Act of 1964
  • this led to a whole series of new laws in late 1960s and early 1970s
  • Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, NEPA
Different levels of politics
  • environment and presidential politics (interview)
  • passing new laws
  • protests
  • public opinion
How do you get a law passed?
  • someone in Congress writes a law
  • it gets debated and revised
  • has to pass both Senate and House of Representatives
  • the President has to sign it
  • a government agency often carries it out or interprets it
  • it get thrashed out in the courts

This page written and copyright Pamela E. Mack
Hist 124
last updated 3/31/10