In 1972, the year-old EPA had photographers traverse the country to document the (often dire) state of the environment. This project, Documerica, was "the visual echo of the mission of the EPA," according to one photographer. Now, 40 years later, archive specialist Jerry Simmons has unearthed the photos and put them online at the National Archives website and on Flickr. It's a time capsule of life before the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

Some of the photos show positive action — a "city farmer" in Boston, for instance, or a guy riding his bike to sidestep fuel shortages. Some record daily life, and some of them show that even without federal protection, a lot of America is still pretty beautiful. And the rest … look like this. (Click the photos for more information.)