Celebrating Earth Day and the Biggest Legal Wins for the Planet


In the 46 years since the first Earth Day, we have seen a lot of accomplishments.

Whether we will succeed in salvaging the habitability of the planet, or if William Burroughs was right and our only chance of survival is in space, remains to be seen. But as we celebrate our 47th Earth Day, let’s take a look back on some of the biggest legal wins for the planet.

Banning DDT

Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) is pesticide that was widely used after World War II. As with most pesticides, it harms far more than pests.

In addition to causing cancer and nervous system disorders in humans, it causes thinning of bird shells. In 1972, its use was banned in the U.S. After that, populations of bald eagles and other birds that were nearing extinction bounced back.

Unfortunately, it is still used in other parts of the world.

Protecting Endangered Species

In 1973, the Endangered Species Act was passed. It protects animals and plants that are listed are endangered because their numbers have become so small.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species went into effect in 1975. Countries that sign agree to ban or restrict trade in endangered species and their body parts.


The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 was passed to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous wastes and other toxins.

It gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the power to make polluters clean up their mess, or to do it for them and make them pay for it.

Even with these and the numerous other accomplishments so far, and whether you believe that climate change is manmade or a natural cycle, we are experiencing it and suffering the consequences.

It’s something to keep in mind as National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day approaches.

Avatar About Sandra Dalton

With a background as a paralegal, focusing on criminal defense and civil rights, Sandra Dalton launched her freelance writing career in 2000 with a weekly column on Freedom for Suite 101 and pro bono projects for individuals and organizations supporting causes close to her heart. One of her first projects was for the Police Compliant Center writing about police misconduct. Sandra’s legal writing quickly expanded to include personal injury, animal welfare, criminal defense, disability discrimination, family law and much more.