One of the Environmental Protection Agency’s early projects was Documerica, an effort "to photograph America’s environmental problems, to document America’s natural and man-made beauty and to photograph the human condition" from 1971 to 1977. Now they’re releasing the 15,000 photos from the vault at the National Archives and posting them on Flickr.
Alexis Madrigal has more over on Wired about a project that was meant to document the country’s pollution problems and "help justify the existence of the EPA" in the first years of the agency. Here’s what archivist C. Jerry Simmons had to say about the project:
Documerica’s official mission effectively focused on popular but valid environmental concerns of the early 1970s: water, air and noise pollution; unchecked urbanization; poverty; environmental impact on public health; and youth culture of the day. But in reaction to the varied pollution, health and social crises, Documerica succeeded also in affirming America’s commitment to solving these problems by capturing positive images of human life and Americans’ reactions, responses and resourcefulness.
Their release got me thinking about how useful a similar project might be today. This year is a significant anniversary for the environmental movement, marking the 40th anniversary of both Earth Day and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. But the EPA is getting pummeled these days for its efforts to address the biggest environmental challenge of our generation, climate change. And many Americans remain utterly confused or outright indifferent to the problems.