As we mentioned last week, a long-time project for Wallover evolved after Crucible Steel approached the growing company with a problem. Crucible needed to find a better way to dispose of waste oil, which previously had been deposited into rivers. As it happens, this request did not simply happen in a vacuum. Throughout the 1960s, awareness regarding environmental issues steadily increased.
One might say that the decade of the 60s was book-ended by events that helped illuminate environmental concerns. The first event was the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Carson was not the first person to voice concerns about the use of powerful pesticides like DDT, but her book, tying together her scientific background with the easy-to-understand metaphor of a silent spring, made a powerful impact on the country. Chemical companies became the primary focal point after the book was published, but Carson’s book was powerful in that it encouraged people to ask more questions. President John F. Kennedy’s administration commissioned research that validated many of Carson’s findings, further adding fuel to the flame.
At the end of the decade, there was a terrible oil spill that, today, calls to mind more recent events like the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast. In January, 1969, a Unocal rig spilled a whopping three million gallons of oil into the ocean off the coast of Santa Barbara. People saw images of oil-soaked birds and other wildlife. This event was perhaps even more powerful in driving attention to how American industry was impacting the environment. Unlike Rachel Carson’s book, which could be dismissed as propaganda by people who wanted to do so, the “Santa Barbara blowout” was unquestionably happening. The reality of the event could not be avoided.
Other figures also gained prominence during the 1960s through their efforts to draw attention to the environment. One example of such a person was Gaylord Nelson, who started the decade as governor of Wisconsin and then moved on to the US Senate. This article from Nelsonearthday.net describes how Nelson pressured the government and industries to take better care of all resources, both natural and human.
In between the publication of Silent Spring and the Santa Barbara blowout, Americans began raising more questions about air quality control and water quality control. It is not surprising that industries like the steel industry, of which Crucible was a major part, started to look for cleaner ways to do business during this time period. Wallover would continue to make efforts over the next several years to use environmentally friendly methodologies and to meet EPA standards for safety and sustainability, goals that continue to this day.
Next week we will move beyond the issue of environmentalism and talk more about the bigger picture of the 1960s and how the turbulence of the decade impacted Wallover Oil. Stay tuned!
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sterlingcollege/6667618039/ via Creative Commons