“And now some more official information on the accident at Chernobyl°
The disastrous nuclear power plant accident on April 25-26, 1986, at Chernobyl in the Ukraine area of the Soviet Union, cost lives and released masses of polluted air that endangered the health of thousands and contaminated millions of acres of land. In this cartoon, Herb Block drew a family of skeletons, representing the unverified numbers of people who died immediately, or soon afterward, of radiation sickness. Block included a portrait of President Mikhail Gorbachev and a television set to allude to the failure of the government and media to communicate timely information to their own people and the world.
“And now some more official information on the accident at Chernobyl.” Published in The Washington Post, May 6, 1986. Sketch. Ink, graphite, and opaque white with paste-on over blue pencil underdrawing accompanied by graphite sketch. Herbert L. Block Collection. Prints and Photographs Division (1). Digital ID # ppmsca-11965
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In 1975 President Gerald Ford vetoed the proposed Surface Mining and Reclamation Act, despite an overwhelmingly pro-environment vote in the House of Representatives. Ford argued that jobs would be lost, utility bills would increase, Americans would be more dependent on foreign oil, and coal production would be unnecessarily reduced. Herb Block attacked the coal strip mining interests by depicting a man literally peeling off the Earth's crust east of the Rocky Mountains, implying that President Ford was in the pockets of the coal lobbyists.
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In this cartoon, Block portrayed the “Grim Reaper” pounding a deadly beat as toxic waste containers spill noxious contents into an ominously streaked river of pollution. His cartoon reflected mounting public concern in 1979 over safe storage of such drums in the wake of news coverage about lawsuits involving illegal dumping of wastes, and instances of health and environmental problems surfacing in the proximity of hazardous waste sites in New Jersey, New York, Kentucky, and elsewhere. The reported problems included higher rates of cancer deaths and seepage of life threatening chemical waste into rivers, water supplies, and homes.
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The Gray Plague
With his image of the Grim Reaper coming for those who dared to breathe in America's cities, Herb Block indicated that air pollution had become a major issue by 1967. President Lyndon Johnson asked Congress to authorize federal regulation of air quality to protect the environment. When he signed the Air Quality Act of 1967 into law on November 21, 1967, Johnson quoted Dante's Inferno, “. . . dirty water and black snow pour from the dismal air to. . .the putrid slush that waits for them below.”
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