Victories Since the First Earth Day: A 40th Anniversary Timeline

Since the first Earth Day 40 years ago, America has become a cleaner, safer, more beautiful place with less pollution and many endangered species rescued from the brink.  Here is just a sampling of the good things that have happened since 1970 and the first Earth Day.

1970 – President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a mission to protect the environment and public health.

1972 – The EPA banned DDT, a carcinogenic pesticide, featured in Rachel Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring.”

1972 – The Clean Water Act was passed at a time when only 40% of major rivers in the U.S. were safe enough for swimming. Today, about 70% are safe enough.

1973 – EPA began phasing out leaded gasoline, a source of air pollution, banning it fully by 1986.

1974– Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, allowing EPA to regulate the quality of public drinking water.

1978 – The federal government banned chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) as propellants in aerosol cans because CFCs destroy the ozone layer, which protects the planet from harmful ultraviolet radiation.

1979 – EPA banned cancer-causing PCB production and use.

1980 – Congress created the Superfund to clean up hazardous waste sites, and require payment from polluting companies to finance clean up of the most hazardous sites.

1988 – Congress passed the Sewage Ocean-dumping Ban against sewage sludge and industrial waste.

1991 – Under an order from President George H.W. Bush, the US government started recycling on the federal level.

1992 – The ENERGY STAR program was first created by the U.S. Department of Energy to help us all save money — and conserve energy — through the use of energy efficient products. The program has since been adopted around the world.

1999 – President Bill Clinton announced new emissions standards for cars, sport utility vehicles, minivans and trucks, requiring them to be 77 to 95 percent cleaner in future years.

1999 – The largest unprotected grove of ancient redwoods in the world came under protection after Pacific Lumber agreed to accept federal and state funds totaling nearly a quarter billion dollars in exchange for preservation of the 10,000 acre Headwaters Forest.

2001 – Australia ended commercial coral harvesting on the Great Barrier Reef to protect the world’s largest living reef formation.

2002 – WWF partnered with Brazil to launch the world’s largest tropical forest conservation program, carving out 12 years of strict preservation and the establishment of 62 million acres of new protected areas – a swath about the size of Wyoming.

2006 – The Bush Administration encircled Hawaii with the world’s largest marine preserve, home to 7000 marine species, at least a quarter of which are found nowhere else. The huge sanctuary is larger than all U.S. National Parks combined, stretching the distance from Chicago to Florida.

2007One billion trees were planted by citizens around the world in just one year in the UN’s Billion Tree Campaign.

2008 – Americans are tossing less litter despite the fact that there are more people on the roads. “Experts estimate that deliberate trash-tossing has fallen about 2% per year since the mid-’70s.”

2008Bald eagles this year soared off the endangered species list after nearly four decades, their population climbing from a dismal count of just 417 nesting pairs in the continental United States in 1963 to more than 11,000 today.

2009 – The Obama Administration, environmentalists and the auto industry formally reach an agreement for the production of significantly more energy-efficient vehicles.

2010 – A $2.2 billion five-year blueprint for rescuing the Great Lakes from toxic contamination and invasive species was launched by the Obama administration developed .

2010 – The Earth lost fewer trees in the last decade, as global deforestation rates fell over the past ten years by more than 18 percent, according to the UN’s Global Forest Resources Assessment, which studied 233 countries.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” -Maria Robinson


Grandmother Wins Environmental Prize

The 2010 Goldman Prize Recipients

The 2010 Goldman Prize Recipients

Lynn Henning, a Michigan grandmother who has fought pollution by factory livestock farms, was awarded the coveted Goldman Environmental Prize, along with activists from five other regions of the world.  The prize, which comes with an award of $150,000, is the world’s largest prize for grass-roots environmental activists.  One recipient is chosen from each of six continental regions: North America, Central and South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and islands and island nations.

“Goldman Prize recipients are proof that ordinary people are capable of doing truly extraordinary things,” Goldman said in a statement issued by the Goldman Environmental Foundation. “Although the prize winners represent a wide variety of nations and work on very different issues, they have much in common. All have shown conviction, commitment and courage.”

Lynn Henning now represents North America. For a decade, the 52-year-old family farmer has battled with large factory livestock farms over the pollution caused by their operations in rural Michigan.  The farms are known as “concentrated animal feeding operations.” The largest raise millions of animals in enclosed spaces and produce as much waste as medium-sized cities. Unlike cities, however, they are not required to treat the waste, which includes feces, urine, pesticides, hormones, carcass parts and E. coli bacteria.  The waste is collected in large vats or open pits and then periodically sprayed on fields as “fertilizer,” polluting groundwater and creating toxic fumes.

Henning and her husband farm 300 acres of corn and soybeans in Lenawee County within 10 miles of a dozen concentrated animal-feeding operations. Henning’s parents-in-law, who live close to one factory livestock farm, have both been diagnosed with poisoning from hydrogen sulfide, one of the chemicals produced by these farming methods.

In 2000, Henning began speaking out against the factory farms, collecting water samples and gathering information about pollution spills. The following year, she began volunteering for the Sierra Club, and in 2005 she became a staff member.  Lynn presented the information she collected to state officials but initially had little success in combating the politically influential farm operators. She and her family were subjected to harassment. Her mailbox was blown up, dead animals were left on her porch and she was followed and run off the road, the Goldman Foundation said.

But with the help of a volunteer pilot and photographer, and using satellite imagery and GPS documents, she was able to collect a body of evidence that eventually led Michigan regulatory agencies to issue hundreds of citations to farm operators for environmental violations. Go Grandma!

Other Winners This Year:

1. Randall Arauz of Costa Rica, who has led a campaign to end the practice of shark finning, in which fisherman cut off the fins and tails of sharks they catch and throw the animals back into the sea to die.

2.  Tuy Sereivathana of Cambodia, known as “Uncle Elephant,” who has worked with villagers to save native elephants, which are sometimes killed by farmers for trampling farmland and destroying crops.

3.  Malgorzata Gorska of Poland, who enlisted the help of the European Union Parliament and led the fight to save the Rospuda Valley, one of the last wilderness areas in Europe, from the development of a major expressway.

4. Humberto Rios Labrada of Cuba, a folk musician and scientist, who has worked to promote sustainable farming methods and reduce the uses of pesticides and fertilizer.

5. Thuli Makama of Swaziland, the African country’s only public-interest environmental attorney, who waged a successful three-year battle to win the right of nonprofit environmental groups to have a voice in government environmental management decisions.


Violin Prodigy Plays for Haiti

A very sweet story about an eight-year-old violinist, Brianna Kahane, who has used her big heart and noteworthy musical skills to raise funds for those in need.  Brianna recently aided a destroyed arts school and its injured owner in Haiti.

Inkjet-Like Device ‘Prints’ Cells Right Over Burns

Inspired by a standard office inkjet printer, U.S. researchers have rigged up a device that can spray skin cells directly onto burn victims, quickly protecting and healing their wounds as an alternative to skin grafts.

Inspired by a standard office inkjet printer, U.S. researchers have rigged up a device that can spray skin cells directly onto burn victims, quickly protecting and healing their wounds as an alternative to skin grafts.

They have mounted the device in a frame that can be wheeled over a patient in a hospital bed.  A laser can take a reading of the wound’s size and shape so that a layer of healing skin cells can be precisely applied, said the team at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  “We literally print the cells directly onto the wound,” said student Kyle Binder, who helped design the device. “We can put specific cells where they need to go.”

They are working with the U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine to come up with ways to help soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. It could be used to close various types of wounds as well as burns.  “You have to give a lot of credit to the cells. When you put them into the wound, they know what to do,” Binder said.


Widow Fights Pakistan Taliban with Embroidery

When the Pakistan Taliban’s campaign of terror arrived in the land formerly ruled by her late husband’s family, homemaker Mussarat Ahmedzeb decided she could no longer remain a bystander.  Barbers were forced to put away their razors, music shops were burnt to the ground, and girls’ schools blown up. It was against this backdrop that, in the spring of 2007, Mrs. Ahmedzeb set up three embroidery and handicrafts centers where destitute women could gather and work in peace.

“I had to create something … a place where we can talk, we can chat so we can forget our worries. So we started with embroideries. Rather than hear who has been slaughtered and who had been killed, they could get away from the trauma.”

Now in its third year, with more than 500 women in employment, her three centers train women, free of charge, and export the colorful and distinctively Swati embroidery in the form of dresses, cushion covers, napkins, and more to buyers in Pakistan’s metropolitan cities of Lahore and Islamabad, the capital. An art exhibit in Islamabad by Argentinean Mariano Akerman this week showcased some of the best designs.

The centers, which Ahmedzeb continues to fund with her own money, including buying the raw materials, are filled with chatter and laughter. Swati women, unlike men, have few opportunities to congregate. Here they share tips and exchange gossip while sitting on mats. Several bring their young children too.  Arifa, a young woman, says she lost her husband, the sole breadwinner for the family, to a roadside bomb.  The women typically earn $50 to $150 a month, depending how much they produce. Some, like teenager Sidra Bakthiad, is using her pay to save up for her college education.

“The women of the family are upholding their family name and are good social activists,” says Ziauddin Yusufzai, head of the private schools association of Swat, adding Ahmedzeb has a reputation of being a “very fine woman.” Residents here speak highly of acts of generosity, such as opening her ancestral home to fleeing refugees during a 2009 Army operation in Swat and financially supporting some 18 children of refugees.  The women at her centers are grateful for the opportunities they are getting. “We owe Mussarat Bibi a lot for the hope she’s given us,” says Sheema Bibi.


Hero Nanny Runs Barefoot Through Flames to Save Boy

Alyson Myatt, 22, suffered third-degree burns on both feet and second- and third-degree burns to her hand when she braved 400-degree flames to save Aden Hawes, 5. The boy’s father, J.B. Hawes was not at home.

Around 3 a.m. a broken ventilation fan in an upstairs bathroom had overheated and caught fire. Alyson Myatt, a 22-year-old live-in nanny whose room was in the basement of the house, doused the small fire with water and called Hawes to report the problem. Both agreed that the fire was out.  But at 6 a.m. Myatt awoke to a crashing boom and wailing smoke alarms. Myatt jumped out of bed and rushed upstairs in her bare feet. “Before I had even looked at the fire or anything, I was yelling for Aden. He said he was in his room underneath the covers.” To get to him, Myatt had to run through the burning carpeting with nothing on her feet.  “I didn’t even think about me getting hurt or getting burned,” Myatt said. “I really didn’t even think that I was barefoot.”

If Myatt had called the fire department and waited for them to rescue Aden, the boy would be dead, Chief Tucker said.  Pictures of the house show a forest of charred studs where the upstairs hallway and Aden’s room used to be. The entire upstairs was consumed.

“There’s no words to put how grateful I am to have my son with me, how grateful I am to have Alyson in our world, and it’s just one of those things you can’t put any value on,” Aden’s single-parent father, J.B. Hawes said. “There’s no price to be paid. It’s a debt that will never be able to be repaid.”  Hawes said he had interviewed five other candidates for the nanny’s job before Myatt.  “God brought her into our world, that’s for sure…To realize what she did, saved my son’s life, you can’t thank someone for that. There’s nothing you can do to repay them for taking that kind of a risk.”

Aden said he is looking forward to doing puzzles with Myatt again and reading books with her.  “I love her so much,” Aden said, as he snuggled under her left arm and looked up at her frequently, caressing her fingers.  The words made the 22-year-old Myatt smile and choke back her tears. Fire officials said there’s no question that Myatt’s fearless actions saved Aden’s life and allowed him to come through the experience completely unscathed.



(4/20/2010) As announced on Ellen , Tonic has pledged $20,000 to Alyson Myatt – and they’re hoping that at least 1,000 of their readers, and Ellen‘s viewers, will chip in just $10 each to foot the bill. Pankaj Shah, Tonic developer, will match every contribution made up to $10,000 so they can hit and hopefully exceed the target.