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In 1969, six miles off the coast of Santa Barbara, a blow-out at an offshore oil-drilling platform spewed crude oil into the sea and onto shores. I joined volunteers to tend birds coated in oil. Some survived; thousands died. A few years earlier, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring described a natural world in peril from the chemical potions intended to stamp out malaria, improve crop yields, and, generally, serve mankind. Together – a book and an event – form the foundations of America’s modern environmental policy journey. During four decades, that journey has unfolded in fits and starts, with an accumulating toolkit and an evolving narrative. That narrative began as a series of wake up calls. It developed into a basket of statutes – the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and others. It matured – and debates unfolded.
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