Althea Gibson: American Champion;Air Pollution: Global Problem


On This Date in 1957: American Althea Gibson won the women’s championship at London’s All English Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. It is known as the Wimbledon Championship. She was the first American of African heritage to do so. In the 1940’s she had won the national black women’s championship twice. Tennis was largely segregated but National champion Alice Marble lobbied on Gibson’s behalf and in 1950 she was invited to play at the US Open. In 1956 she won the French singles and doubles title. After winning Wimbledon, she went on to win the US Open in September of 1957. In 1958, she won Wimbledon and the US Open again. She was the AP Female Athlete of the Year in 1957 and 1958. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in 1947 and has his place in the annals of the Civil Rights movement. However, the achievements of Althea Gibson should not be overlooked. She was a true American Champion on many levels.

On This Date in 1955, the US began investigating cleaner air. The first air pollution control efforts began in 1306 when England’s Edward I banned the use of sea-coal in craftsman’s furnaces because of the noxious smoke emissions. In the early 20th century, the automobile was seen as an environmental savior because it eliminated the need for animal power. Animals produce wastes that piled up in cities and created a health hazard. But, as I’ve talked about often on these here pages, there were unintended consequences. Air pollution was largely seen as a nuisance not a health problem until 1952 when London suffered some 4000 fatalities when it was shrouded in what was called the “killer fog.” Analysis revealed it was caused by the reaction of nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons with ultraviolet radiation. The result was the formation of low level ozone…or 3 oxygens clinging together. On July 6, 1955 the US the first Air Pollution Control Act in an effort to study the effects of auto emissions. Obviously, it wasn’t enough because they amended that act then others followed in 1963, 1970 and 1990. I think it’s safe to say that more can be expected. The American Meteorological Society tracks the evolution of air pollution legislation:

AMS Air Pollution Legislation synopsis

The EPA tracks the evolution of modern air pollution and regulation. It’s interesting to me that it says that the idea of air pollution control evolved from the need for water pollution control. That water pollution problems as a health hazard has been known since the early Middle Ages, yet, we continue to poison ourselves through our rivers, lakes, streams and oceans. We get all worked up over a potential problem that would alter civilization yet ignore one that is actually killing life on earth as we speak.

Here is the

EPA Origins of Modern Air Pollution Regulations

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