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Clean Water Act

Forty years ago today, against a backdrop of flaming rivers, dying lakes and sewage-choked beaches, our politicians reached across the aisle to pass the Clean Water Act—a law aptly described by the New York Times' Robert Semple as "a critical turning point" in rescuing the nation's waterways from "centuries of industrial, municipal and agricultural pollution." The primary goals of the law were simple and bold: to stop using our nation’s waters

Clean water is one of Earth’s most precious resources. Life is not possible without clean water. Thursday is the 40th anniversary of our nation’s most important law to protect clean water and end water pollution: the Clean Water Act of 1972.

This is a great law whose goals include making all waters safe for fishing, swimming, and drinking, and to end the use of our lakes, rivers, streams and oceans as dumping grounds for pollution.

After growing up in Massachusetts suburbia, I have fond memories of canoeing with my family on the town’s river, the Sudbury. Gliding along, we would keep our eyes peeled for turtles on the rocks or fish under the boat, and maybe if we were very lucky a heron drying off in the afternoon sun. Once or twice I even fell in, to the eternal frustration of my parents.

It’s not the passing of Russell Train – who died Monday at 92 – that we remember, but the life he led as a powerful, humble, principled warrior for the Earth.

Mr. Train was chairman of the newly created White House Council on Environmental Quality before President Nixon picked him to be the second head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a role that fully launched his career as a conservationist, recalls Joan Mulhern, a colleague of mine who worked with this remarkable man to protect the Clean Water Act.

The Mountain Heroes photo petition.
Today's the day that we deliver our Mountain Heroes photo petition to the Obama administration! This massive photo petition is historic—it includes photos and personal messages and stories from more than 13,500 people across the country who wrote to President Obama and his administration for an end to mountaintop removal mining.
Larry Gibson, watching the sun set over a decimated Kayford Mountain.

The fight to end mountaintop removal will not stop until mountaintop removal stops, but yesterday we lost one of the most beloved heroes and leaders of the movement. Larry Gibson, the Keeper of the Mountains, died on Kayford Mountain, a sacred place he fought for three decades to save. He recalled how, 30 years ago, some people told him that the destruction caused by mountaintop removal and strip mining would be “fixed” in six months.

Larry Gibson, watching the sun set over a decimated Kayford Mountain.

Imagine for a moment that you live in a beautiful forest. Your home is on the side of a big mountain. All around it are tall trees and elegant flowers. After a long day of work you come home. You are tired. Dinner smells delicious. You smile at your family. Everyone sits down at the dinner table. You are happy.

Suddenly there is a loud noise.

“What was that,” you wonder.

John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” is one song that immediately comes to mind when you think of how music and mountains just naturally go hand in hand. Musicians are been well known for their stances on environmental issues, and artists such as Pearl Jam, The Roots, Jack Johnson, Willie Nelson, Guster, Sheryl Crow, and Moby are all outspoken advocates.

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About the Earthjustice Blog

unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.