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US History – The Environment and Natural Resources, 1968-80

3. Environmentalism and the Economy

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In this module, we take a closer look at the shifting attitudes of Americans in the 1970s. Americans were willing to support environmental causes during economic boom times, but feared that these causes might slow the economy and lead to unemployment during recessions. The 1973 OPEC oil embargo during the Yom Kippur War showed that America was vulnerable to political and economic pressure from the Arab states. That year, Congress approved the building of a trans-Alaska pipeline to bring oil from northern Alaska to the ice-free port of Valdez on the Alaskan South coast, despite environmentalists’ opposition. It was completed in 1977 and has operated ever since. A tanker sailing from Port Valdez in 1989, the Exxon Valdez, hit a reef and spilled millions of gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound. Detroit car companies, under pressure from Japanese competition, fought against the introduction of strict auto emissions but were forced to stop using lead compounds in gasoline by a law of 1976. President Jimmy Carter, elected in 1976, installed solar panels on the White House roof and supported government subsidies for alternative energy production.


In this course, Professor Patrick Allitt (Emory University) explores how the issue of the Environment and Natural Resources were dealt with during the period 1968-1980. In the first module, we will examine how in the late 1960s environmentalism became a mass movement in the United States. We will then turn to see how politicians responded to this movement. In the third module, we will see how American views on the environment changed when the economy began to slow in the 1970s. We will then turn to look at the history of nuclear power in the US and how it’s growth slowed after the Three Mile Island accident. After this we turn to the issue of natural resources and examine how academics disagreed over this issue. In the penultimate module, we will explore how Republican and Democrat views on the environment began to splinter in the 1970s. In the final module, we will explore the policies of Ronald Reagan towards the environment.


Patrick N. Allitt is the Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory University. He specialises in American intellectual, environmental, and religious history; and has authored seven books, including A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Allitt, P. (2021, November 18). US History – The Environment and Natural Resources, 1968-80 - Environmentalism and the Economy [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Allitt, P. "US History – The Environment and Natural Resources, 1968-80 – Environmentalism and the Economy." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 18 Nov 2021,

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