Environmental History 
of the Spokane River

Age of Ecology

President Nixon's Opening Speech, where he references Washington State as "the first state in the nation in terms of trying to protect the environment." (Spokane Historical)

Age of Ecology

The Age of Ecology spans from 1960-1980 and is characterized by the great strides of environmentalism. During this time, people began to take physical action on behalf of the environment. This came from the growing realization that environmental problems affect people everywhere, and in no case was it an isolated issue.

Expo ‘74 and the Age of Ecology

The location and theme of Expo ‘74 encapsulates the cultural attitudes that existed within the United States during the Age of Ecology. There was a large push from citizens to recognize the value and importance of the environment, and the theme “Celebrating Tomorrow’s Fresh New Environment,” illustrates this. Additionally, the backdrop of Spokane Falls served as a constant reminder to attendees of the beauty of the natural world, as well a reminder that the Earth is something worth saving.

Overall, Expo ‘74 was a success. It inspired people. Fair attendee Ricco DiStefano told the Spokesman Review in 2014, “To this day, I would never even consider littering. The theme really sunk into me as a boy.” The environmental theme carried out with the World’s Fair affected many people, and left them with ideas and new habits that still resonate with them to this day.

However, the fair was not without its controversy. Local environmental groups protested the fair for not being a catalyst of real change, and instead bringing in more traffic, pollution, and commercialized environmental messages. Expo sponsors included which included General Electric, General Motors, Ford, and Exxon. Another argument posed against the expo was that business leaders were more focused on the economic growth of Spokane rather than serious discussion about environmental protection.

The "Garbage Goat" art installation that was created for Expo '74 and can be found today in Riverfront Park (Spokesman-Review)

During the Age of Ecology, people began to take action to protect the environment. This action was carried out in two ways during the event and after-effects of Expo ‘74:

1. The action of creating an environmentally themed World’s Fair. There were films and art installations that preached the beauty of the natural environment and encouraged recycling and inspired people to pick up garbage around them.

2. Actions of local environmental groups that acted out against the expo in solidarity with the land. They believed the expo was using environmental messages to sell tickets, and protested to stop commercialization of the environment.

Explanation of the USA Pavilion and the environmentally themed installations (Spokane Historical)

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