Our Environment: Your View

By Jeanethe Falvey

I could not take my eyes off the jar of brown water and the woman’s face outside her home in Licking County Ohio, the scuttled Volkswagen in Jamaica Bay, New York, or the black smoke as discarded automobile batteries burned away in Texas. I had pored over and studied countless environmental case studies of the 1970s before coming to work at EPA. Perhaps that’s what hit me when Documerica came to my attention: I had read, but had never seen what people went through before there were environmental laws in place to protect the air we breathe and the water we drink. Imperfect and controversial as any regulations may be, they exist now. Every day they are providing a foundation for a better quality of life for all of us.

Documerica gave us photographs of the environment and primarily the state of American life from 1971-1977. What else the project inspired we may never know, but that decade marked the dawn of a new era. We would never again tolerate poisoned air and water. From 1970 to 1980, the United States Congress passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, and Superfund: a small laundry list for a brand new agency. There is no doubt that the awareness both from within our government, but also from the public, supported these monumental steps toward a safer environment. Maybe a few simple photographs helped out. 

As EPA heads through its 41st year of service, what’s your take on the State of the Environment? In this moment in time we’re asking you to capture photographs of your environment: where you live, work or play. From Earth Day 2011 to Earth Day 2012, we’re giving Documerica another go, challenging you to show your view, no matter how big or small.

Up for more? Follow our weekly challenge for a Documerica photo taken near you to get a current “after” photo in the same place.

Submit your photos and stay tuned as we feature weekly photos! Yours could be part of our Earth Day 2012 Exhibit in Washington D.C.

Hope to see you in Flickr-land.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey, U.S. EPA Office of External Affairs, Boston, Massachusetts

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