It’s hard for people who weren’t around in 1960s and '70s to remember what the world was like before the EPA.

There was a reason President Richard Nixon’s proposal to establish a federal agency to protect the environment enjoyed bipartisan support.

A mountain of oil drums near an Exxon refinery in Louisiana. All photos via Defiant, via the EPA and National Archives and Records Administration.


Before the Environmental Protection Agency, many industries used U.S. waterways as toxic waste dumps. It was so bad that the Great Lakes and the surrounding rivers frequently caught fire.

The Clean Water Act of 1972 forced industry to control the pollution it dumped into America’s water. But President Donald Trump's budget proposal — which would cut one-fifth of the agency's staff, eliminate entire programs, and trim $2 billion from its budget — could curtail this act.

In 1971, one of the first things the EPA did was hire a team of photojournalists to document the ongoing environmental devastation in America.

The project took six years, involved 100 photojournalists, and produced more than 80,000 images.

The Cuyahoga River Fire of 1952.

They called it "Documerica," and in the past few years the National Archives has digitized some 15,000 images from the project. You can see them at its website or on Flickr. Some are simple pictures of life in the ’70s, but others depict a harrowing world.

A factory burning discarded batteries and belching poison into the air outside Houston.

Along the New Jersey Turnpike.

A landfill outside New York City.

It's a world where industry has carte blanche to poison the environment and the people in the name of profit. A world where our rivers and lakes catch fire. A world of garbage, toxic waste, and ash.

The George Washington Bridge, barely visible through the smog.

A poisoned lake near Ogden, Utah.

When Trump says he wants to make America great again and refers to a fanciful time when the United States was somehow better, this is what he’s talking about. This is what America looks like without the EPA.

This is why we fight.

This story was first published at Defiant is reprinted here with permission.

This article originally appeared on November 11, 2015


Remember those beloved Richard Scarry books from when you were a kid?

Like a lot of people, I grew up reading them. And now, I read them to my kids.

The best!

If that doesn't ring a bell, perhaps this character from the "Busytown" series will. Classic!

Image via

Scarry was an incredibly prolific children's author and illustrator. He created over 250 books during his career. His books were loved across the world — over 100 million were sold in many languages.

But here's something you may not have known about these classics: They've been slowly changing over the years.

Don't panic! They've been changing in a good way.

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Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

The Sam Vimes "Boots" Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness explains one way the rich get richer.

Any time conversations about wealth and poverty come up, people inevitably start talking about boots.

The standard phrase that comes up is "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," which is usually shorthand for "work harder and don't ask for or expect help." (The fact that the phrase was originally used sarcastically because pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps is literally, physically impossible is rarely acknowledged, but c'est la vie.) The idea that people who build wealth do so because they individually work harder than poor people is baked into the American consciousness and wrapped up in the ideal of the American dream.

A different take on boots and building wealth, however, paints a more accurate picture of what it takes to get out of poverty.

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"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937) and actor Peter Dinklage.

On Tuesday, Upworthy reported that actor Peter Dinklage was unhappy with Disney’s decision to move forward with a live-action version of “Snow White and the Seven Drawfs” starring Rachel Zegler.

Dinklage praised Disney’s inclusive casting of the “West Side Story” actress, whose mother is of Colombian descent, but pointed out that, at the same time, the company was making a film that promotes damaging stereotypes about people with dwarfism.

"There's a lot of hypocrisy going on, I've gotta say, from being somebody who's a little bit unique," Dinklage told Marc Maron on his “WTF” podcast.

"Well, you know, it's really progressive to cast a—literally no offense to anybody, but I was a little taken aback by, they were very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White," Dinklage said, "but you're still telling the story of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.' Take a step back and look at what you're doing there.”

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