Environment consciousness was growing in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) had become law on January 1, 1970, requiring environmental impact statements for federal programs and authorizing citizen suits to ensure environmental issues had been fully addressed. Trading their “Give Peace a Chance” buttons for ones that read “Give Green a Chance,” student protestors entered the environmental arena, quickly targeting the internal combustion engine as the prime cause of pollution. Colorado State was in the front lines.
Below are two images from a February 1970 CSU protest that were picked up by United Press International, captioned, and distributed to their newspaper subscribers.
“2/4/70 FT. COLLINS, COLO: Gas masked pall bearers surround coffin containing a gasoline engine during mock funeral. The Colorado State University Environmental Corps protested smog caused by automobile engines. An estimated 200-students attended and buried the engine.”
“2/12/70 FORT COLLINS, COLORADO: Students at Colorado State University lead a funeral cortege – non-motorized, of course – for the gasoline automobile engine. Like dozens of groups around the country, the students were dramatizing their concern for clean air, an increasing rare phenomenon, as industrial machinery spews forth its tons of pollutants. The funeral was for the mock burial of the automobile engine, considered to be a prime offender in the war against pollution.”
Similar environmental protests occurred all over the country. How much impact the protests had is uncertain, but on April 22, 1970 we celebrated our first Earth Day and by the end of the year, the Environmental Protection Agency was in place.