Environmental Protection: A Half Century of Progress

The United States faced significant environmental challenges in the 1960s. Pollution was rampant and not effectively controlled.  Illnesses and even death were caused by discharges to water and emissions to air. Birds and wildlife were in decline, and natural resources could not be productively used. We have made significant progress in controlling pollution and cleaning up contamination, but much remains to be done to sustain that progress, tackle problems which have never been effectively addressed, and avoid or manage newly emerging problems. Many people are not aware of this history and challenges - some because they were born long after the nation’s concerted environmental programs had begun, and the most serious serious problems had been abated. 

The EPA Alumni Association has prepared a series of reports, Protecting the Environment: A Half Century of Progress. The goal of these reports is to inform high school and college students and others about the major environmental problems and issues encountered in the United States in the 1960s, how they were addressed, and the importance of continued effort to overcome remaining challenges and address newly and emerging problems. 

Half Century of Progress consists of an Overview together with more detailed reports about particular programs: Clean Water, Clean Air, Pesticides, Toxic Substances, Waste Management, Hazardous Site Cleanup, and Drinking Water.  We hope that these reports will bring about a greater appreciation of the need for effective environmental programs and inspire students and others to consider careers in the environmental field. 

We have developed a Teachers’ Guide and additional resource materials to accompany Half Century and we welcome comments and suggestions on ways to improve these materials and make them more useful. Members of the Association are available to speak to schools and civic organizations using presentation materials based on the Half Century reports. To request a speaker click here.

Click the image to the left to open the 32 page Half Century of Progress Overview in a new window. Click any image below to read the more detailed reports on specific environmental programs and remaining challenges. These reports are 15-40 pages in length with numerous illustrations and, in some cases, embedded video. Their large file sizes may result in a wait to load or download the files. We recommend downloading them and opening them in Adobe Acrobat.  Some interactive features of the reports are functional in Adobe Acrobat but not other PDF readers.

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Teacher's Guide

The Teacher’s Guide is intended for high school and college environmental science teachers who are interested using our HCP reports to enrich their curricula.   The Guide includes data interpretation and other questions to reinforce concepts and/or to stimulate critical thinking. It includes suggested activities and resources for students and teachers, including three lesson plans developed by Advance Placement Environmental Studies Teachers that use HCP reports on air and water pollution.  The Guide is available to all active environmental educators upon request (HERE).

Supplemental Material