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Monday’s observance of Earth Day marked the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement.

The observance was created in 1970 by then-U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson as a way to force the protection of the environment onto the national agenda. The idea caught on with 20 million Americans demonstrating in cities across the country for a cleaner environment.

Congress subsequently authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA notes that "before 1970, a factory could spew black clouds of toxic smoke into the air or dump tons of toxic waste into a nearby stream, and that was perfectly legal. They could not be taken to court to stop it. ... there was no EPA, no Clean Air Act, no Clean Water Act. There were no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect our environment."

Today, with some questioning the need for the EPA and others doubting the reality of climate change, Earth Day issues remain caught up in politics and perception.

But no one should dispute the importance of protecting the environment, from the most serious of threats to the scourge of unsightly litter. Orangeburg County is battling what even its leaders acknowledge is a serious problem with litter.

Orangeburg County Councilwoman Janie Cooper-Smith long has been outspoken about litter and active in efforts to prevent littering.

She wrote recently in The Times and Democrat: “Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could travel our roadways and enjoy the natural beauty and/or the landscaping? The natural beauty and landscaping are camouflaged by miles and miles of unsightly trash that blankets our roadways.

“As we travel, we are likely to see anything that can be tossed out or put out alongside our roadways. Our roadways have become trashways. These trashways can keep businesses and tourists out of our county. We desperately need the businesses and tourists because they enhance our economy and our quality of life.”

Orangeburg is amid the first countywide litter cleanup for 2019 through April 27. For more information, call the Orangeburg County Litter Control at 803-533-6162 to register as a volunteer. Volunteers will be given bags, grabbers and vests.

Take part if you can but do your part regardless. Don’t litter, encourage others not to litter and be willing to report littering when you see it.

If you see someone tossing litter from an automobile in South Carolina, the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles urges you to immediately call 1-877-7LITTER (754-8837) and report the location, time and the litterbug’s license number. The service is available 24/7 to ensure a line is always open. The SCDMV and PalmettoPride also have a form you can submit online and a new Litter Buster App.

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