IW Rewind: Manufacturers' Response to the First Earth Day in 1970

A look back at IW's coverage of the first Earth Day and how manufacturers reacted to heightened environmental awareness.

In 1970 Ralph Nader told a group of students at Cleveland State University to prepare for a pollution war. People on board with the "pollution war" offered solutions ranging from birth control to shutting down industry, according to a May 4, 1970, IndustryWeek article covering the first Earth Day.

It was a time of heightened political awareness on college campuses throughout the nation. In fact, the same day IndustryWeek published the article, "Pollution War... Action vs. Emotion," National Guardsmen shot and killed four students during a Vietnam War protest at Kent State University -- just 40 miles from the Penton Media (IW's publisher) office in Cleveland.

Nader spoke to the CSU students during Environment in Crisis Week, which culminated in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970.

Reaction from manufacturers was largely skeptical, citing the "tremendous costs involved" with pollution-reduction efforts.

From IW's May 4, 1970, issue:

Pollution war... Action vs. emotion

Pollution is war, consumerist Ralph Nader told a student audience at Cleveland State University during Environment in Crisis Week. And, if it is, apparently many Americans are no more interested in really righting the pollution war than they are the Vietnam War.

In Washington, thousands gathered at the Washington Monument and grooved to a rock band while congressmen rode around in a pollution-free electric car. In several cities, hundreds turned out for funerals of the internal combustion engine. And in Cleveland, a project to clean up Edgewater Beach on Lake Erie drew about 40 people.

And that's how Crisis Week and Earth Day went. A lot of speeches, demonstrations, teach-ins, and stunts - but little real action.

Good ideas, but -- "People claim they're interested in the environment, but most really don't want to get involved," says Louis N. Carmouche, manager, Functional Products & Systems Dept., Dow Chemical Co. "Earth Day and Crisis Week are good ideas -- they build awareness and concern about these problems, but they don't bring much action, and that's what we need now," he adds.

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