Remarks in the Hospital at the Signing of the Clean Air Act Amendments and Solid Waste Disposal Bill
When future historians write of this era, I believe they will note that ours was the generation that finally faced up to the accumulated problems of our American life.
To us has been given the task of checking the slow but the relentless erosion of our civilization.
To us has been given the responsibility not only of stimulating our progress, but of making that progress acceptable to our children and our grandchildren.
Today, we are taking another large and forward step in this direction.
Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, we have been systematically polluting our air.
Each year the pollution grows worse.
We have now reached the point where our factories and our automobiles, our furnaces and our municipal dumps are spewing more than 150 million tons of pollutants annually into the air that we breathe-almost one-half million tons a day.
From our automobiles alone, enough carbon monoxide is discharged daily to adversely pollute the combined areas of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey.
This has become a health problem that is national in scope.
The air that is the very essence of life has become a carrier for disease and for early death. Between 1930 and 1960 the number of deaths from one respiratory disease alone increased by 800 percent.
But air pollution is also a drain on our resources. In the United States alone it accounts for more than $11 billion in economic damages. This amounts to nearly $30 a year for every man, woman, and child in our Nation. And yet our expenditure on air pollution control is less than 20 cents a year per citizen.
We made a hopeful beginning toward solving this problem with the Clean Air Act of 1963.
Today, with the signing of the Clean Air Act Amendments and Solid Waste Disposal Act, we are redoubling our efforts.
This act will require all 1968 model automobiles--including the foreign models that are sold here--to meet Federal control standards for exhaust.
This bill creates a Federal research and technical assistance program to seek ways of disposing of the millions of tons of solid wastes that we generate each year.
This bill gives us the tools to halt pollution before it starts in new industries.
Rachel Carson once wrote: "In biological history, no organism has survived long if its environment became in some way unfit for it. But no organism before man has deliberately polluted its own environment." 1
Well, to those of you here in this room-members and leaders of both parties--this morning I join you in saying that together we intend to rewrite that chapter of history.
Today we make our beginning.
1 Rachel Carson, "Silent Spring" (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1962).
Note: The President spoke at 9:05 a.m. in his room at the Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Md. Present for the occasion were Vice President Hubert Humphrey; Representative John W. McCormack of Massachusetts, Speaker of the House of Representatives; Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare John W. Gardner; Senators Mike Mansfield of Montana, Pat McNamara of Michigan, Edmund S. Muskie of Maine, Hiram L. Fong of Hawaii, and J. Caleb Boggs of Delaware; and Representatives Hale Boggs of Louisiana, Oren Harris of Arkansas, William L. Springer of Illinois, and Leo W. O'Brien of New York.
As enacted, the Clean Air Act Amendments and Solid Waste Disposal Act is Public Law 89-272 (79 Stat. 992, 997).
The text of the remarks was released at the Hospital.
Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks in the Hospital at the Signing of the Clean Air Act Amendments and Solid Waste Disposal Bill Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/241210