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Environment Magazine September/October 2008


July-August 2017

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Editorial - Getting Back to Our Roots

With a great deal of rhetoric and actions against environmental regulations coming out of Washington, perhaps it is a good time to reflect on where we have come since the first Earth Day in April of 1970. Although there is a good deal of bad news—we seem not to be able to adequately deal with the worsening threat of global climate change, for example; too many people are living environmental nightmares, with inadequate access to clean water and sufficient healthy food; and the oceans and their coral reefs seem to be threatened—there is some good news, which we should not forget. And as the recent marches, one for science and another for the amelioration of climate change, to say nothing of the women's march, indicate, people are protesting against and resisting these anti-environmental and anti-women attitudes.

In this issue we are publishing two articles on mercury poisoning. One, written by Sheldon Novick, then editor of Environment, was the first article in a national publication to call attention to what the magazine called “A New Pollution Problem.” We are reprinting it here because it is an example of the pioneering role the magazine played in its early days, a legacy we attempt to fulfill today with every issue.

The other article, written by Oladele A. Ogunseitan, demonstrates how important mercury continues to be. The article points out that not only is mercury the only chemical to which an entire section is dedicated in the 2016 revision of the 1975 Toxic Substances Control Act, but it is one of the few elements for which a global partnership has been established by the United Nations Environment Program.

From time to time, given the magazine's long history—we are currently published by our fourth owner—we will publish articles that we think are seminal pieces, and important not only in the magazine's history but in the history of the environmental movement itself. We hope you will forgive the little bit of boasting that this represents; we are extremely proud of our history. But more importantly, perhaps, it provides us with lessons for us all.

It is important to remember that people do matter, and that when we speak with voices that are armed with facts much can be accomplished. Novick's article represents an important step in that direction. And although Ogunseitan's article tells us that the mercury problem is not solved, it is also important to remember that we have made great strides since the original mercury article was written, strides due in large part to public pressure. When Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency on December 2, 1970, he did so because of public outcry over our deteriorating environment, a situation that called for, in Nixon's view, a consolidation of previously existing agencies to promote a clean environment. We should remember this history as we face increasing attacks on the legacy of not only President Obama, but of other presidents as well, including Nixon, a staunch Republican.

It is also important to remember that this magazine was born out of protest. Starting as Nuclear Information, an arm of the protest movement against radioactive fallout from the testing of atomic weapons, morphing than into Scientist and Citizen in 1963 and finally to Environment in 1969, its intention has always been to present factual and reliable information so that people can decide what action they should take. In no time in our history has this been more important than now.

—Alan H. McGowan

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