In the 1970s, the EPA hired a bunch of freelance photojournalists to document the state of the environment, before the raft of protections included in the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts took effect. The result was 'Documerica', a series of photos that captured the devastating pollution, hazardous environmental conditions, and, yes, the still-pristine beauty in various regions across the nation. It still stuns today. (See for yourself; I compiled some of the most striking photos in this post about what the US would look like without environmental protections)
Now, the EPA is again seeking to conduct a similar pair of experiments. Since last Earth Day, the agency has put out a call for photos documenting the current 'State of the Environment'. Anyone is free to submit, and the goal is to get a user-generated snapshot of the world in 2011-2012. So far, people seem to be sending primarily pretty pictures – I'd love for someone to get up close and personal with some of the major polluters of our day. Submit your photos here.
Secondly, the agency ran an update to the original Documerica, asking photographers to shoot updates to some of the famous photos. That project evidently ran for the last three months or so, and a $500 prize will be given to the winner, who will be announced in February. So stay tuned, and let's see if we can get a sense for how much conditions have improved since environmental policy took effect in the 70s.