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Many people believe that the environmental movement is a fairly recent phenomenon originating around the first Earth Day in May of 1970. However, the modern environmental movement started well before Earth Day and quite frankly, led to this observance of the planet's fragile equilibrium between man and the environment. The root cause of this movement was the observation by many concerned people that the air, water and the natural eco-systems were under threat by over population and over use.

A number of groups worked together to save the shrinking redwood forests of northern California and eventually the word 'tree-hugger' came into use. Those who worked tirelessly to save some of the last remaining natural forests were deemed disruptive and a threat to the exploitation of the forests for the benefit of man only.

Whether you want to call these concerned individuals environmentalists or tree huggers, one must admit that these are the very ones who pushed the American people to create various laws to protect our air and water. They are the citizens who succeeded in getting government protection of forests in National Parks, National Forests and Wilderness areas. They are the activists who got legislation to protect the last vestiges of grasslands and prairies, State parks and Wildlife Refuges.

Some of these organizations: The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Audubon Society and Izack Walton League. Also, one must not forget some of the early tree huggers such as Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir and Aldo Leopold. These foresighted environmentalists were instrumental in passing bills to protect the natural wonders of the United States. Rachael Carson wrote her famous and ground breaking book, Silent Spring, which alerted worried Americans to the dangers of DDT. The banning of DDT resulted in the increasing populations of raptors. Before, with the wide spread use of DDT, the egg shells of raptors were thin and broke during incubation resulting in the decrease of their populations. Her concerns and pleas fell on deaf ears at the beginning and it was endless travel down a long, hard road to get this insecticide banned.

The use of DDT has been banned, but the expanded use of agri-chemicals such as new insecticides, herbicides and inorganic fertilizers, continue to pollute the land, rivers and oceans. Extending out from the mouth of the Mississippi River is a dead zone comprising some 1,000 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico. This is just one of the environmental disasters which is the bottom line to the increased production of food in the heartland of America. We increase yields on one hand and destroy an ecosystem on the other. Few people can view this damage in the Gulf of Mexico so it continues unabated; out of sight is out of mind as the saying goes.

If the environmentalists try to stop the use of so many agri-chemicals, then they will be branded as tree huggers and fruit cakes. What it all boils down to is the quality of life that one would want for future generations. Do we want polluted waters and air for the future so that we can produce cheap and abundant food for the present? As urban blight descends across America, isn't it time that we give praise to the environmentalists who are trying to save some vestiges of our natural environment rather than referring to them as tree huggers and part of the lunatic fringe??

Clyde Cremer is a graduate of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Science.
He is also the author of "The Complete Guide to Log Homes" Clyde can be contacted at 719 547 2135

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