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Toxic Wastes

Herblock often used a ticking bomb, this time in the form of a barrel of chemicals under a playground, to depict the hazards of toxic waste dumping. In 1985, the Environmental Protection Agency identified 403 highly toxic chemicals used in industrial production and increased regulations controlling toxic waste dumps. Researchers who studied the effects of toxic waste spills found them especially detrimental to children, who absorbed the toxins through breast milk, food, and water.

Herblock. Toxic Wastes, 1985. Black pencil, India ink, porous point pen, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, December 15, 1985. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (001.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-11166]

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Toxic Graveyard

Taft, Louisiana, was one of Louisiana’s historic black communities until chemical plants contaminated the environment. While the town no longer exists, the cemetery of the Holy Rosary Church, established in 1877, is still in use today.

Sam Kittner, photographer. Graveyard and Chem[ical] Plant, Taft, La., December 1989. Dye destruction print. Gift of Kent and Marcia Minichiello, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (003.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-31922] © Sam Kittner

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Great Louisiana Toxic March

Government reports published in the 1980s revealed that three out of four hazardous waste sites in the United States were located in African American communities. In November 1988 community activists led the first “Great Louisiana Toxic March” and Sam Kittner’s photography helped draw attention to the harmful environmental conditions encountered by African Americans living in Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley.” This area is still home to 150 oil refineries and petrochemical plants along an 80-mile industrial corridor.

Sam Kittner, photographer. LA Toxics March, November 1988. Cibachrome print. Gift of Kent and Marcia Minichiello, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (004.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-31923] © Sam Kittner

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The Formerly Good Earth

When Herblock portrayed his John Q. Public figure in a gas mask, standing on a filthy planet Earth overwhelmed by toxic spills, polluted waterways, and unprecedented levels of air pollution, he was showing his support for the passage of the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency on December 2, 1970. Reports by researchers who investigated the dumping sites that leached toxins into local food and water supplies had increased public awareness of life-threatening hazards and the need for better care of the earth.

Herblock. The Formerly Good Earth, 1970. India ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing with paste-on. Published in the Washington Post, December 31, 1970. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (002.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-07676]

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Disappearance of a Community

Founded in the 1870s by freed slaves, Reveilletown, Louisiana, sat across the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge. Nearby, the Georgia Gulf Corporation produced plastics for automobile trim, computer parts, medical supplies, and vinyl window frames. The plant emitted vinyl chloride, a poison known to cause liver disease. Residents sued Georgia Gulf and over a period of four years, the entire town of 106 residents was relocated. All of the homes were torn down and the historic community disappeared.

Sam Kittner, photographer. Reveilletown, La., November 1988. Dye destruction print. Gift of Kent and Marcia Minichiello, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (005.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-31925] © Sam Kittner

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Exxon Refinery Explosion, Louisiana

At the Exxon refinery in Baton Rouge, a 1989 Christmas Eve Day explosion took the lives of three people. Eight storage tanks, holding more than four million gallons of oil and lubricants, exploded after a cold snap caused a pressure buildup in the tanks. The blast shattered office windows in the downtown area, and aftershocks were felt more than forty miles away. Sam Kittner’s photograph shows the close proximity of the state capital and its population to the large refinery.

Sam Kittner, photographer. State Capitol of La. and Exxon Explosion, Baton Rouge, La., December 24, 1989. Cibachrome print. Gift of Kent and Marcia Minichiello, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (006.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-31924] © Sam Kittner

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Call of the Wild

The visual metaphor of baying wolves and a chain link fence helped Herblock convey his objection to developers clamoring to eliminate the legislation that separated them from access to the untapped Alaskan wilderness. In March 1979, the House Interior Committee had proposed allowing oil drilling, mining, and timber harvesting on the Alaskan lands that President Carter had protected as national monuments.

Herblock. Call of the Wild, 1979. India ink, porous point pen, graphite, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, March 23, 1979. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (007.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-09619]

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Mount McKinley National Park, Alaska

Established in 1917 as a wildlife refuge, Mount McKinley National Park was renamed Denali National Park in 1980. Photographer Ansel Adams, renowned for his landscape photographs that celebrate the beauty of nature, received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1946 to photograph national parks and monuments. The following summer he spent six weeks photographing the Alaskan landscape. Adams’s photographs have inspired many people to conserve the natural environment.

Ansel Adams, photographer. Teklanika River, Mount McKinley National Park, Alaska, 1947. Gelatin silver print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (008.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-31921] © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

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“Good News—We’ve Reduced the Nuclear Threat from Abroad”

Herblock used irony, with a hint of sarcasm, to contradict a positive newspaper headline announcing the end of the Cold War. Although the Soviet Union and the United States ended the nuclear weapons showdown that had begun during World War II, nuclear waste remained a risk within both countries. In the 1990s, journalists reported that radioactive waste in a Soviet mine had exploded and had devastated area communities. People living near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State learned that contaminated water in the Columbia River reached the Pacific coast and local fallout poisoned crops. The release of nuclear waste into the air near Cincinnati, Ohio, contaminated local drinking water.

Herblock, Good News—We’ve Reduced the Nuclear Threat from Abroad,” 1993. India ink, porous point pen, graphite, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, October 5, 1993. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (009.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-12645]

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Storing Petroleum Products

Kansas is one of the top ten domestic suppliers of oil and natural gas in the United States. Large underground caverns carved into the underlying salt beds are used to store refined petroleum products.

Terry Evans, photographer. Petroleum Products Storage Site in Salt Cavities, McPherson County, Kansas, April 2, 1991. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Kent and Marcia Minichiello, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (010.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-31932] © Terry Evans

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“Maybe He Should Be Cited for Contempt of Public Intelligence”

To indicate his support for land closures under the 1964 Wilderness Act, Herblock portrayed Secretary of the Interior James Watt using earth moving equipment while failing to convince an American family that he was protecting the environment. Under the Wilderness Act, government lands open to development were to be closed indefinitely in 1983. Environmentalists accused Watt of undermining portions of the act with his proposed legislation to reopen lands to development in 2000.

Herblock. Maybe He Should Be Cited for Contempt of Public Intelligence,” 1982. India ink, porous point pen, graphite, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing with overlays. Published in the Washington Post, March 8, 1982. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (011.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-10291]

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Gravel Pit Turned Marina, Nevada

For decades the Helms Gravel Pit in Nevada provided tons of rocks for local road building projects. In 1987 millions of gallons of oil leaked into the pit from a nearby tank farm. The pit acted as a natural holding pen for the contaminated water, preventing the water from escaping into the Truckee River. After a major clean-up, the site was converted to Sparks Marina Park, a seventy-seven-acre lake, popular for sport fishing and sailing.

Peter Goin, photographer. Helms Gravel Pit Just North of Highway 80, Sparks, Nevada, 1990. Dye coupler print. Gift of Kent and Marcia Minichiello, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (012.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-31934] © Peter Goin

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“We Can Even Improve On Turning Things Over to the States—We Can Let the Industries Regulate Themselves”

In 1995, Herblock objected to legislation introduced by the House to alter the Clean Water Act and defer to industry and special interest groups. The 1974 act authorized the Environmental Protection Agency to limit pollutants in the water. The bi-partisan 1995 measure, had it gone forward, would have exempted certain industries from cleaning waste water prior to discharging it into public treatment facilities and permitted more development on wetlands. The Clinton administration successfully fought the proposed legislation.

Herblock. We Can Even Improve On Turning Things Over to the States—We Can Let the Industries Regulate Themselves,” 1995. India ink, porous point pen, graphite, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing with overlays. Published in the Washington Post, May 19, 1995. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (013.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-13030]

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Garbage Dump Meets Wildlife Refuge, Kansas

Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, located in western Kansas, is the largest wetland in the interior of the United States. It is considered the most important shorebird migration point in the western hemisphere. Terry Evans’s aerial view put the hazard in perspective by showing how a pristine waterway became a floating garbage dump.

Terry Evans, photographer. Junk West of Nature Conservancy Purchased Land, Cheyenne Bottoms, 1993. Dye coupler print. Gift of Kent and Marcia Minichiello, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (014.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-31930] © Terry Evans

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Billboards Are Good for You

Herblock considered billboards a form of pollution that prevented people from seeing American scenery. He wrote that advertisers “put their products before the beauties of nature.” Here, he opposed a congressional proposal to alter a 1965 Highway Beautification Act that would have decreased restrictions on billboard owners and advertisers.

Herblock. Billboards Are Good for You, 1986. India ink, porous point pen, graphite, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing with overlays. Published in the Washington Post, October 9, 1986. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (015.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-11289]

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Cars Parked At Yosemite National Park, California

More than one million vehicles enter Yosemite National Park each year. The popularity of the national parks has led to traffic congestion, air pollution, and loss of natural habitat. Rondal Partridge used photography to show that cars have ruled the park since at least the 1960s, but they cannot overshadow the majestic Half Dome.

Rondal Partridge, photographer. Pave It and Paint It Green, ca. 1965. Gelatin silver print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (016.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-31920] © Rondal Partridge

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“This Is an Emergency—We’ve Got to Prevent Any Leaks of Information!”

Herblock used sarcasm to present his view that the administration of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant was more concerned with information leaks than with leaking radiation and public welfare. On March 28, 1979, the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, near Middletown, Pennsylvania, overheated and the nuclear fuel cores experienced meltdown. Holding tanks with radioactive water overflowed and, with permission from the U.S. Regulatory Commission, the power plant discharged both radioactive water into the Susquehanna River and radioactive gas into the air. John Pfhal’s photograph shows the plant’s presence on land and reflection in the water.

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“What We’d like is about a Twenty-Mile Island”

Herblock drew the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant as a desert island after a January 1980 report suggested that such plants operate away from population centers. The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant had released radiation into the atmosphere and into the Susquehanna River in 1979, causing initial panic, but no long-lasting damage.

Herblock, What We’d like is about a Twenty-Mile Island,” 1980. India ink, porous point pen, graphite, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, January 25, 1980. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (019.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-9813]

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Trojan Nuclear Power Plant

The Trojan Nuclear Power Plant began operation in 1976, providing about twelve percent of Oregon’s power needs. Faulty safety systems, the accidental release of radioactive gases, and cracked steam tubes caused the plant to shut down temporarily several times until it was decommissioned in 1993. The reactor vessel was later transported by barge to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the state of Washington, where it was buried in a forty-five foot pit and covered with gravel.

John Pfahl, photographer. Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, Columbia River, Oregon, October 1982. Dye Coupler print. Gift of Kent and Marcia Minichiello, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (018.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-31927] © John Pfahl

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“Nah—It Wouldn’t Be Practical”

Herblock commented on his belief in the long-term need to explore solar energy sources by showing people laboring to clean up damage from oil, coal, and nuclear energy while dismissing solar energy as impractical. Despite the increased discussion among scientists about the “greenhouse effect” caused by fossil fuels, oil remained the world’s most valuable commodity in the 1980s. Power companies scarcely invested in solar energy because start-up costs exceeded the expense of purchasing oil from abroad, especially after the Reagan administration reduced federal funding for solar research by eighty percent.

Herblock. Nah—It Wouldn't Be Practical,” 1989. India ink, porous point pen, graphite, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, March 29, 1989. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (021.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-14211]

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Gas and Electric Plant, California

Photographer John Pfahl described his perspective in this way: “I have frequently noticed that the electric power companies have chosen the most picturesque locations in America in which to situate their enormous plants. This is likely due to a need for rivers and waterfalls to propel their turbines, or for lakes and oceans to cool their reactors . . . power plants in the natural landscape represent only the most extreme example of man’s willful domination over the wilderness. It is the arena where the needs and ambitions of an ever-expanding population collide most forcefully with the finite resources of nature.”

John Pfahl, photographer. Pacific Gas and Electric Plant, Morro Bay, California, June 1983. Dye coupler print. Gift of Kent and Marcia Minichiello, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (022.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-31928] © John Pfahl

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“. . . An Atmosphere that Could Support Life . . .”

To convey the hazards of air pollution, Herblock contrasted the hard-to-breathe air on Earth with the atmosphere of Mars, which, based on data from the Viking spacecraft, scientists posited could have once supported life. The Senate opened debate to revise the 1970 Clean Air Act during the summer of 1976 when Washington and other American cities repeatedly had air quality alerts. Cities looked to state and federal government agencies for funding and legislation to help them curb polluting smog.

Herblock. . . . An Atmosphere that Could Support Life . . . . 1976. India ink, porous point pen, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, August 1, 1976. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (023.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-8999]

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Los Angeles Smog Report, California

Los Angeles is located in a low basin surrounded by mountains, a natural feature that traps dangerous levels of smog over the city and its population of more than twenty-five million people. The city’s air pollution comes from vehicle, airplane, and train emissions, as well as from industrial pollution. Conceptual photographer Victor Landweber titled his photograph of the thick Los Angeles skyline with the day’s smog report.

Victor Landweber. Better than Standard for Three Pollutants (O3, NO2, CO), West Hollywood, 7/16/85. Dye coupler print. Gift of Kent and Marcia Minichiello, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (024.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-31933] © Victor Landweber

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“Boy, We Could Develop That into Some Fine Stumps”

Herblock emphasized both the natural beauty of the United States as well as developers’ greed in extracting its resources. He drew this cartoon at a time when Congress had six conservation bills pending to protect and preserve federal lands, including one that would prevent developers from making false claims to mineral rights in national forests in order to harvest timber. Congress ultimately approved of legislation increasing federal park lands and funding their protection.

Herblock. Boy, We Could Develop That into Some Fine Stumps,” 1953. India ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, March 15, 1953. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (025.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-03246]

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Desert Sprawl, Arizona

Sprawl, usually associated with urban areas, now consumes land further away from major cities. The former gold mining town of Congress, Arizona, is located in the desert about sixty miles north of Phoenix. Alex MacLean chose an aerial view to show how a square-shaped town that covers a one-quarter-mile area, surrounded by wide open desert, depends on a network of roads and cars to reach shopping and job sites.

Alex S. MacLean, photographer. Housing Patch on Desert Floor, Congress, Arizona, 2005. Chromogenic print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (026.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-31929] © Alex S. MacLean

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“I Hear the Cold Part of the Cold War Is Over”

Herblock used irony to contrast the metaphorical heat from radioactive waste with the decrease of Cold War tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States. The dissolution of the Soviet satellite state structure in 1989–1990 significantly reduced an external threat to the United States. But as the federal government sought solutions for the long-term storage of nuclear waste from weapons, local governments and citizen groups resisted. Site plans included Yucca Mountain in Nevada; Boyd County, Nebraska; and Hudspeth County, Texas.

Herblock. I Hear the Cold Part of the Cold War Is Over,” 1990. India ink, porous point pen, graphite, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing with overlays. Published in the Washington Post, November 23, 1990. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (027.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-12159]

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Abandoned Missile Launching Pad, Kansas

Photographer Terry Evans explored the impact of military sites on the prairie, including this decommissioned missile silo from the 1960s located next to farmland in Kansas.

Terry Evans, photographer. Abandoned Missile Launching Pad, Saline County, Kansas, March 23, 1991. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Kent and Marcia Minichiello, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (028.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-31931] © Terry Evans

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“There Goes the Entire Neighborhood”

When Herblock used the trash-laden globe as a metaphor for world pollution, he conveyed the overwhelming nature of the problem. In February 1973, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a report about water pollution covering an estimated 700,000 square miles of ocean just off the continental United States. NOAA reported finding “globs of oil” and plastic waste in the part of the Atlantic Ocean called the Sargasso Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

Herblock. There Goes the Entire Neighborhood,” 1973. India ink, graphite, blue pencil, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, February 20, 1973. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (029.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-8163]

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Tire Mountains, California

Mountains of discarded tires blight this landscape in California. Until the mid-1990s, it was common to dump waste tires because recycling options were limited. Shortly after Edward Burtynsky made this photograph, lightening struck the tire dump, creating a fire that burned for thirty days. The fire released toxic contaminants into the air and heavy metals and other pollutants threatened soil and ground water resources. The state completed an environmental clean-up of the site in 2007, at a cost of twenty million dollars.

Edward Burtynsky, photographer. Oxford Tire Pile #5, Westley, California, 1999. Dye coupler print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (030.00.00) [LC-DIG- ppmsca-04249] © Edward Burtynsky

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“We Could Compromise and Paint Them Green”

This is one of the last cartoons that Herblock produced in his seventy-two-year career as an editorial cartoonist. He reacted to a House vote to permit oil drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. In preparing for the vote, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas said, “We feel very, very confident we will be able to crack the backs of radical environmentalists.” The Senate refused to pass the measure.

Herblock. We Could Compromise and Paint Them Green,” 2001. India ink, porous point pen, graphite, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing with overlays. Published in the Washington Post, August 17, 2001. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (031.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-14120]

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Oil Sands, Alberta, Canada

The Cold Lake oil sands plant is the largest thermal in situ heavy oil operation in the world. Cold Lake bitumen (unrefined asphalt) is located more than 400 meters below the surface of the ground. It is extracted by injecting steam into the oil sands to thin the heavy bitumen and enabling it to flow to the surface through wellbores. Cold Lake produced more than 160,000 barrels of bitumen a day in 2011. Edward Burtynsky has made photographing the industrial landscape his specialty.

Edward Burtynsky, photographer. Oil Fields, #22, Cold Lake Production Project, Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada, 2001. Dye coupler print. Gift of the photographer, 2003. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (032.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-04254] © Edward Burtynsky

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“All Right, All Right—I Believe It”

By showing a man withering under a hot sun while holding a newspaper featuring global warming headlines, Herblock connected the record-breaking heat in 1998 to an international debate about whether the climate is changing. As Washington, D.C., and other American cities sweltered, the Clinton administration pushed Congress to restore funding for its climate initiatives. Congress disagreed with the president over the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, an international program to decrease global warming.

Herblock. All Right, All Right—I Believe It,” 1998. India ink, porous point pen, graphite, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing with overlays. Published in the Washington Post, July 22, 1998. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (033.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-13608]

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The Greenland Icecap

The Greenland icecap is considered a barometer for measuring global warming. Drastic loss of sea ice will eventually lead to rising seas. German photographer Olaf Otto Becker followed Greenland’s inland rivers formed by melting ice. The grey snow and ice have darkened from pollutants that have travelled north from the developed world. Becker included GPS data in the title of his photograph to help track future changes to the landscape.

Olaf Otto Becker, photographer. [River 1, position 16, altitude 707 m, Greenland ice cap melting area], 2007. Digital color print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (034.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-32160] © Olaf Otto Becker

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“I’ve Figured a Way to Get Rid of That Stuff—Use It Up”

Herblock believed that the Environmental Protection Agency and agribusiness were partners in the continued use of the most toxic pesticides. In June 1988, EPA administrator Lee M. Thomas made an exception to the ban on the chemical dinoseb. He permitted companies to exhaust existing stocks of the herbicide, which were known to cause birth defects as well as sterility in those exposed to it.

Herblock. I've Figured a Way to Get Rid of That Stuff—Use It Up,” 1988. India ink, porous point pen, graphite, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing with overlays. Published in the Washington Post, June 19, 1988. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (035.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-11708]

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Farming Life

Photographer Robert Coppola described his goal in documenting farm conditions in this way: “Migrant farm workers face a variety of hardships: low wages, lack of affordable housing, health risks, inadequate health care, and workplace exploitation. This photograph is from a series that draws inspiration from the life of migrant farm workers at the time of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. Although the daily life of the migrant farm worker has changed, the work still fails to provide the basic necessities of life and it is often a life lacking in human dignity.”

Robert Coppola, photographer. CAMFW-Tractor 7024, July 8, 2009. Color digital print. Gift of the photographer. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (036.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-32157] © Robert Coppola

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“You Want Business in this Town or Don’t You?”

Herblock expressed his concern that local government regulation of pollution wouldn’t work through his depiction of a businessman coaxing a local politician to look at payroll and tax numbers, while ignoring the smoke billowing from a factory. In 1967, Lyndon Baines Johnson’s administration provoked an outcry from the leaders of industry when it discussed standards to limit air pollution. Business owners argued that restrictions would be better imposed at the state and local level.

Herblock, You Want Business in this Town or Don’t You? 1967. India ink, graphite, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, May 10, 1967. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (037.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-6798]

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A Photographer Describes His Subject

John Pfahl lives near the Bethlehem plant in Lackawanna, New York. He described his experience photographing at the site: “Simultaneously attracted and repelled, I feel myself engulfed in a truly awesome spectacle of nature. It is like suddenly being hurled into a roaring cataract, an erupting volcano, or a violent storm at sea. Alarm whistles blow and smoke discharges into the sky, expanding and changing form far more rapidly than I can imagine possible, and, at its absolute zenith, dissipating into thin air before I can take another breath. The presentation has its own geyser-like rhythms and rationale, and fifteen to twenty minutes pass before another discharge takes place. Doubtless the efficiencies of the internal workings of the mill dictate a logic for the timings, but from my removed vantage point I can only see them as part of an irrational process, terrifying in its capriciousness. I wait again for what seems an interminable time, and just when I impatiently fear that the workmen have closed down the line ending the show for the day, the whole process suddenly starts over again. New colors, shapes, and textures arise from other stacks in different hallucinatory combinations.”

John Pfahl, photographer. Bethlehem #72, Lackawanna, N. Y., 1988. Dye coupler print. Gift of Kent and Marcia Minichiello, 2001. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (038.00.00) [LC-DIG-ppmsca-08219] © John Pfahl

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“Are You Sure You Wouldn’t Like a Red Carpet?”

Herblock compared road building in United States forest reserves to providing a red carpet reception for the timber industry. His John Q. Public character is the loser, flattened in the middle of the road. In 1997, the Worldwatch Institute, located in Washington, D.C., issued a report Paying the Piper: Subsidies, Politics and the Environment, arguing that 500 billion taxpayer dollars paid for deforestation, over-fishing, and other environmentally destructive activities and brought more financial loss than gain in the long term.

Herblock. Are You Sure You Wouldn’t Like a Red Carpet? 1997. India ink, porous point pen, graphite, and opaque white over blue pencil underdrawing. Published in the Washington Post, July 10, 1997. Herbert L. Block Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (041.00.00) [LC-DIG-hlb-13428]

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Debris from Mount St. Helens, Washington

Mount St. Helens, an active volcano located in the Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest, erupted on Sunday, May 18, 1980, killing 57 people, destroying 250 homes, and burying roads. Volcanic mudflow, called “lahar,” destroyed acres of mountain vegetation, including Weyerhaeuser’s Mount St. Helens Tree Farm. The downed trees had to be salvaged quickly to avoid damage from insects and the environment. Photographer Frank Gohlke first visited Mount St. Helens in the summer of 1981. He has documented the changing landscape with his large format view camera over the course of several years.

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