The agitation for equal opportuni- ty sparked other forms of upheaval . Young people in particular rejected the stable patterns of middle-class life their parents had created in the decades after World War II . Some plunged into radical political activ- ity; many more embraced new stan- dards of dress and sexual behavior .

The visible signs of the coun- terculture spread through parts of American society in the late 1960s and early 1970s . Hair grew lon-

ger and beards became common . Blue jeans and tee shirts took the place of slacks, jackets, and ties . The use of illegal drugs increased . Rock and roll grew, proliferated, and transformed into many musi- cal variations . The Beatles, the Roll- ing Stones, and other British groups took the country by storm . “Hard rock” grew popular, and songs with a political or social commentary, such as those by singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, became common . The youth counterculture reached its apogee in August 1969 at Wood- stock, a three-day music festival in rural New York State attended by almost half-a-million persons . The festival, mythologized in films and record albums, gave its name to the era, the Woodstock Generation .

A parallel manifestation of the new sensibility of the young was the rise of the New Left, a group of young, college-age radicals . The New Leftists, who had close counterparts in Western Europe, were in many in- stances the children of the older gen- eration of radicals . Nonetheless, they rejected old-style Marxist rhetoric . Instead, they depicted university students as themselves an oppressed class that possessed special insights into the struggle of other oppressed groups in American society .

New Leftists participated in the civil rights movement and the strug- gle against poverty . Their greatest success — and the one instance in which they developed a mass follow- ing — was in opposing the Vietnam War, an issue of emotional interest


to their draft-age contemporaries . By the late 1970s, the student New Left had disappeared, but many of its activists made their way into main- stream politics .


The energy and sensibility that fu- eled the civil rights movement, the counterculture, and the New Left also stimulated an environmental movement in the mid-1960s . Many were aroused by the publication in 1962 of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, which alleged that chemical pesticides, particularly DDT, caused cancer, among other ills . Public concern about the environment continued to increase throughout the 1960s as many became aware of other pollutants surrounding them — automobile emissions, industrial wastes, oil spills — that threatened their health and the beauty of their surroundings . On April 22, 1970, schools and communities across the United States celebrated Earth Day for the first time . “Teach-ins” edu- cated Americans about the dangers of environmental pollution .

Few denied that pollution was a problem, but the proposed solutions involved expense and inconve- nience . Many believed these would reduce the economic growth upon which many Americans’ standard of living depended . Nevertheless, in 1970, Congress amended the Clean Air Act of 1967 to develop uniform national air-quality standards . It also passed the Water Quality Im-

provement Act, which assigned to the polluter the responsibility of cleaning up off-shore oil spills . Also, in 1970, the Environmental Protec- tion Agency (EPA) was created as an independent federal agency to spearhead the effort to bring abus- es under control . During the next three decades, the EPA, bolstered by legislation that increased its author- ity, became one of the most active agencies in the government, issuing strong regulations covering air and water quality .

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