On December 2, 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency opened for work for the first time. Earlier that year, President Richard Nixon and Congress had established the EPA with overwhelming support from the public.
It may be hard to imagine that before 1970, a factory could spew black clouds of toxic into the air or dump tons of toxic waste into a nearby stream, and that was perfectly legal. They could not be taken to court to stop it.
The pictures shown here are from the EPA’s 1970s photography project, DOCUMERICA. These shots were selected from the “In Praise of Forests” collection: Forest snail on an alder leaf, Alder Catkins on the ice, Mushroom lit briefly by the sun, Seedlings.
Happy anniversary to the EPA!
Inspired by these photos? The National Archives in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency is inviting students aged 13 and up to snap a picture, write a poem, or create a video that is inspired by one of our many Documerica photos and enter it into the Document Your Environment contest on Challenge.gov.
Look who’s judging: Graphic artist and former Documerica photographer, Michael Philip Manheim, will judge the Graphic Art category; Cokie Roberts, author and news analyst for National Public Radio and ABC News will judge the Video category; and Sandra Alcosser, the first Poet Laureate of Montana and professor of poetry at San Diego State University will judge the poetry category. A finalist will be chosen for each category in each of the three age groups, and one grand prize winner will be chosen by the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero. The grand prize winner will also be awarded $500, courtesy of the Foundation for the National Archives.