Water: Articles and Activities for Middle School Students
Exercise I. When Does Water Burn?!?
"Today's problems cannot be illustrated by the Cuyahoga River burning, by dirty smokestacks, by open sewage pipes - things that you can take a picture of, put on television, put in a newspaper, and thereby spur people and their representatives to action."
- Carol Browner, former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, at the Nicholas School of the Environment 2000 Graduation
(Article: EPA Head Calls Waning Interest Chief Threat).
In 1969 Ohio's Cuyahoga River caught fire and sparked a movement that fought for strict regulations on industrial pollution and resulted in legislation aimed at cleaning up the nation's rivers. Read the following two articles about Ohio's burning river, the Cuyahoga, and answer the questions that follow.
More to the Story
The articles you read share only a brief history of the Cuyahoga River and the environmental movement started by its burning. If you are interested in finding out more about the historic event, the Web site Myths surrounding Cuyahoga River fire 35 years ago stoked country's environmental movement provides a good brief history of the event and has links to pictures and articles dating back to 1969. You can also use your library to search for newspaper and magazine articles that were published about the event.
Questions About the Cuyahoga
1. How can water burn?
2. How can some of the suggestions provided in the "Bon Voyage to Bad Boating Habits" article prevent incidents like the Cuyahoga River burning?
3. What happened when people found out about the burning river? Why did people react that way?
4. How was this event important in starting the movement to control water pollution?
5. What national law now protects waterways from this kind of disaster?
The Media: Changing the Course of History
What is the role of the media in drawing attention to societal issues? What are some limitations of media coverage? For example, when does a news source become part of an active call to action? Is it supposed to be impartial and just report the news, or should it urge a particular mode of action?