New England/Mid-Atlantic

Fifty Years Ago:

In 1966, the city of New York was swathed in a thick blanket of smog over Thanksgiving weekend. Lasting four days and ultimately blamed for 168 deaths in the city, the toxic soup of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and smoke raised national awareness of air quality as a serious public health threat. The event catalyzed Lyndon Johnson to move forward on federal pollution laws, culminating in the 1967 Air Quality Act, and the better-known 1970 Clean Air Act. Meanwhile in the same city, the Hudson River was awash in pollutants, including sewage, urban runoff, mercury, PCBs and other industrial wastes. Sickening humans and wildlife alike, the cesspool of a waterway inspired activism on all fronts – from singer Pete Seeger who founded the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and the Clearwater Music Festival, to fishermen who launched Riverkeeper, the advocacy group that would eventually blossom into Waterkeeper, a water protection conglomerate with 300 affiliated organizations around the world. 


Photo: HHR Journal

Photo: HHR Journal

After decades of remediation, the Hudson River is a much healthier river today. New York city no longer suffers under toxic clouds. But just next door, New Jersey struggles with some of the worst air pollution in the nation, with large portions of the state receiving failing grades for smog. And, nearly all of New Jersey’s waterways fail to meet clean water standards. We’ll take a look at what has really changed in the region in the past five decades and ask what other critical natural resource issues are also currently unfolding. Topics may include:

  • Air and water pollution. 

  • Coastal flooding, extreme weather events, and climate change.

  • Environmental justice in urban areas.

  • Offshore fisheries and wind farm development.

  • Habitat restoration and ecosystem health.

  • Changing fisheries and adaptive approaches.

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