The River That Burned

In 1969, the Cuyahoga River caught on fire. Again. It has happened at least a dozen times since the late 1800’s. But this time it was different than all the times before, because Time Magazine did a feature on the fire and the state of the Cuyahoga River. It made some people ask. “How does a river burn?”

fire, lake, dark, trees, black sky, dark, pollution, Cuyahoga, river, East, US, United States, America, North America,

The sad truth is that companies along the Cuyahoga river were dumping their waste directly into the river. They always had. Just like countless other factories and plants along America’s waterways did. It wasn’t illegal. And, some of that waste dumped into the Cuyahoga river was highly flammable. And so occasionally, the Cuyahoga caught on fire. The 1969 fire, and the Time Magazine story on it, helped spur a flurry of environmental activity that resulted in the Clean Water Act, and the creation of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), which was tasked with helping to create and also enforce environmental laws that would protect people and the environment.

The 60’s saw an increased environmental awareness that gave birth of the environmental movement of the 60’s and 70’s. People began to realize that the air they breath and the water they drank was being polluted at alarming rates, with chemicals that were dangerous for the environment, plants, animals, and for them. Pressure from the movement convinced the government to enact laws to protect air and water, and aided in the creation of the EPA. The EPA’s mission is “to protect human health and the environment.”

Look at some of the things that environmental regulations have accomplished:

Red Rvier, cleaned up, polluted, Nashua, trees, forestry, forest, blue sky, buildings
Nashua River pollution before (left) and after (Right).






New Jersey, illegal waste dumping, turnpike, NJ, US, America, corporate, cleaned, 1973, 2012







Blatimore, Patapsco River, river, illegal waste, water, tires,


It all looks great. But don’t think we’re done. There are more things that could be addressed, if the current administration cared to. Instead, they have chosen to take us backwards. Right now, the current administration is trying to cut funding to the EPA by 35%, and is reversing environmental protections put in place over the last decade. They are trying to discredit and deny scientific findings, so that they can ignore them. They want us to ignore them too.

But in whose best interests are these things being done? Ask yourself “Who benefits?” Ask yourself if you, and your children will benefit if we go back to letting businesses decide how to self regulate. Look at the pictures and decide. Do you want to go back?

While it is true that regulations cost businesses money, it is also true that if the administration made the development, sale, and employment of technologies that lower emissions a national priority, it could very well be an economic boon for our country. For all of those trying to make our country great again, I would say slipping backwards into antiquated ways that ruin our environment will never make us as great as surging forward to become a world leader in the technologies that will save it.