Timeline of environmental events

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The timeline of environmental events is a historical account of events that have shaped humanity's perspective on the environment. This timeline includes some major natural events, man-made disasters, environmentalists that have had a positive influence, and environmental legislation. See also timeline of meteorology for climatic events.


[edit] Earlier Events and Periods

[edit] Holocene

[edit] 10th millennium BC

Bering Sea: Land bridge from Siberia to North America sinks.
North America: Long Island becomes an island when waters break through on the western end to the interior lake
Homo floresiensis, the human's last known surviving close relative, becomes extinct.
World: Sea levels rise abruptly and massive inland flooding occurs due to glacier melt.

[edit] 9th millennium BC

Antarctica - long-term melting of the Antarctic ice sheets is commencing
Asia - rising sea levels caused by postglacial warming
World - Obliteration of more than 40 million animals about this time
North America - The glaciers were receding and by 8,000 B.C. the Wisconsin had withdrawn completely.
World - Inland flooding due to catastrophic glacier melt takes place in several regions

[edit] 8th millennium BC

[edit] 7th millennium BC

[edit] 6th millennium BC

  • Circa 5600 BC — According to the Black Sea deluge theory, the Black Sea floods with salt water. Some 3000 cubic miles (12,500 km³) of salt water is added, significantly expanding it and transforming it from a fresh-water landlocked lake into a salt water sea.
— Beginning of the desertification of north Africa, which ultimately lead to the creation of the Sahara desert. It's possible this process pushed some natives into migrating to the region of the Nile in the east, thereby laying the groundwork for the rise of Egyptian civilization.

[edit] 3rd millennium BC

  • 2700 BCSumerian epic of Gilgamesh describes vast tracts of cedar forests in what is now southern Iraq. Gilgamesh defies the gods and cuts down the forest, and in return the gods say they will curse Sumer with fire (or possibly drought). By 2100 BC, soil erosion and salt buildup have devastated agriculture. One Sumerian wrote that the "earth turned white." Civilization moved north to Babylonia and Assyria. Again, deforestation becomes a factor in the rise and subsequent fall of these civilizations.
— Some of the first laws protecting the remaining forests decreed in Ur.

[edit] 2nd millennium BC

  • 1500 BCSoil erosion is both a consequence of growth and a cause of collapse of Central American city -states.
  • 1450 BCMinoan civilization in the Mediterranean declines, but scholars are divided on the cause. Possibly a volcanic eruption was the source of the catastrophe. On the other hand, gradual deforestation may have led to materials shortages in manufacturing and shipping. Loss of timber and subsequent deterioration of its land was probably a factor in the decline of Minoan power in the late Bronze Age, according to John Perlin in A Forest Journey.

[edit] 1st millennium BC

[edit] 1st millennium AD

  • 100AD to 400AD — Decline of Roman Empire may have been partly due to lead poisoning, according to modern historian and toxicologist Jerome Nriagu. Romans used lead acetate ("sugar of lead") to sweeten old wine and turn grape pulp into a sweet condiment. Usually the acidic wine or pulp was simply left in a vat with sheets of lead. An aristocrat with a sweet tooth might have eaten as much as a gram of lead a day. Widespread use of this sweetener would have caused gout, sterility, insanity and many of the symptoms which were, in fact, present among the Roman aristocrats. High levels of lead have been found in the bones of aristocratic Romans. Far more than simply using lead pipes or lead utensils, the direct consumption of lead-sweetened wine and foods created serious and widespread lead poisoning among upper-class Romans.

[edit] 7th century

[edit] 2nd millennium AD

[edit] 14th century

  • 1347 to 1350sBubonic plague decimates Europe, creating the first attempts to enforce public health and quarantine laws.
  • 1366 — City of Paris forces butchers to dispose of animal wastes outside the city (Ponting); similar laws would be disputed in Philadelphia and New York nearly 400 years later.
  • 1388Parliament passes an act forbidding the throwing of filth and garbage into ditches, rivers and waters. City of Cambridge also passes the first urban sanitary laws in England.

[edit] 15th century

  • 1420 to 1427, Madeira islands : destruction of the laurisilva forest, or the woods which once clothed the whole island when the portuguese settlers decided to clear the land for farming by setting most of the island on fire. It is said that the fire burned for seven years.

[edit] 16th century

  • 1546 — Italian physican Girolamo Fracastoro outlines theory of contagious disease. He reasoned that infectious diseases could be passed on in 3 ways: simple contact, indirect contact, and minute bodies over distance through the air.
  • 1560 to 1600 — Rapid industrialization in England leads to heavy deforestation and increasing substitution of coal for wood.

[edit] 17th century

  • 1640Isaac Walton writes The Compleat Angler about fishing and conservation.
  • 1662John Graunt publishes a book of mortality statistics compiled by parish and municipal councils in England. Although the numbers are inaccurate, a start was made in epidemiology and the understanding of disease and public health.
  • 1690 — Colonial Governor William Penn requires Pennsylvania settlers to preserve one acre of trees for every five acres cleared.

[edit] 18th century

  • 1700 — Some 600 ships are engaged in hauling "sea coal" from Newcastle to London, an enormous increase compared to 1650, when only two ships regularly carried sea coal. Rapid industrialization and the demand for iron and naval supplies has stripped England's forests.
  • 1711Jonathan Swift notes the contents of London's gutters: "sweepings from butchers' stalls, dung, guts and blood, drowned puppies, stinking sprats, all drenched in mud..."
  • 1720 — In India, hundreds of Bishnois Hindus of Khejadali go to their deaths trying to protect trees from the Maharaja of Jodhpur, who needed wood to fuel the lime kilns for cement to build his palace. This event has been considered as the origins of the 20th century Chipko movement.
  • 1739Benjamin Franklin and neighbors petition Pennsylvania Assembly to stop waste dumping and remove tanneries from Philadelphia's commercial district. Foul smell, lower property values, disease and interference with fire fighting are cited. The industries complain that their rights are being violated, but Franklin argues for "public rights." Franklin and the environmentalists win a symbolic battle but the dumping goes on.
  • 1748 — Jared Eliot, clergyman and physician, writes Essays on Field Husbandry in New England promoting soil conservation.
  • 1762 to 1769 — Philadelphia committee led by Benjamin Franklin attempts to regulate waste disposal and water pollution.
  • 1773William Bartram, (1739-1823). American naturalist sets out on a five year journey through the US Southeast to describe wildlife and wilderness from Florida to the Mississippi. His book, Travels, is published in 1791 and becomes one of the early literary classics of the new United States of America.

[edit] 19th century

— US first national park, Yellowstone National Park.
Arbor Day was founded by J. Sterling Morton of Nebraska City, Nebraska. It occurs every year on the last Friday in April in the US.
— German graduate student Othmar Zeider discovers chemical formula for the insecticide DDT.

[edit] 20th century

— The National Conservation Commission, appointed in June by President Roosevelt.
— An article by Robert Underwood Johnson in Century magazine, "A High Price to Pay for Water," helps bring the Hetch Hetchy controversy to national attention.
— Congress approves the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which implements a 1916 Convention (between the U.S. and Britain, acting for Canada) for the Protection of Migratory birds, and establishes responsibility for international migratory bird protection.
World Meteorological Organization (WMO) established by the United Nations.
Fish and Wildlife Act.
  • 1960 — World population reached 3 billion<ref name="PopCon14"/>.
— Mobilisation in France to preserve the Vanoise National Park in the Alpes (Val d'Isère, Tignes, etc.) from an important touristic project. The park itself was created three years later, in 1963, and was the first French natural park.
Rachel Carson, (1907 - 1964), wrote Silent Spring.
Water Resources Research Act.
Fur Seal Act.
— Endangered Species Preservation Act, see Endangered Species Act of 1973
Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
— Accidental pollution of the Rhine in Europe, by 500 liters of Endosulfan, a kind of insecticide. The river was contaminated on more than 600 km and more than 20 million fish died <ref> "Environmental movement" article in the French Encyclopedia Universalis] </ref>.
  • 1970Earth Day, millions of people gather in the United States for the first Earth day organized by Gaylord Nelson, former senator of Wisconsin, and Denis Hayes, Harvard graduate student.
EPA, US Environmental Protection Agency formed by President Nixon.
Clean Air Act.
— Resource Recovery Act, see RCRA 1976
Francis A. Schaeffer publishes Pollution and the Death of Man
Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act.
Noise Control Act
Clean Water Act.
Ocean Dumping Act.
Coastal Zone Management Act.
  • 1973OPEC annouces oil embargo against United States.
Endangered Species Act.
National Reserves Management Act.
— World population reached 4 billion<ref name="PopCon14"/>.
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act.
Hans Jonas The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of Ethics for the Technological Age
Emergency Wetlands Resources Act.
Tetra-ethyl lead phase-out was completed in the US.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by two United Nations organizations, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to assess the "risk of human-induced climate change".
Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer entered into force on January 1. Since then, it has undergone five revisions, in 1990 (London), 1992 (Copenhagen), 1995 (Vienna), 1997 (Montreal), and 1999 (Beijing).
European Environment Agency was established by EEC Regulation 1210/1990 and became operational in 1994. It is headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark.
— The IPCC first assessment report was completed in 1990, and served as the basis of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • 1991 — World's worst oil spill occurs in Kuwait during war with Iraq.
Global Environment Facility (GEF) was established by donor governments.
World Ocean Day began on 8 June at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
  • 1993 — The Great Flood of 1993 was one of the most destructive floods in United States history.
  • 1996Western Shield, a wildlife conservation project is started in Western Australia, and through successful work has taken several species off of the state, national, and internation (IUCN) Endangered Species Lists..
  • 1997 — July, U.S. Senate unanimously passed by a 95–0 vote the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, which stated that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations.
— The Kyoto Protocol was negotiated in Kyoto, Japan in December. It is actually an amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Countries that ratify this protocol commit to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases.
  • 1999 — World population reached 6 billion<ref name="PopCon14"/>.

[edit] 21st century

— The Kyoto Protocol came into force on February 16 following ratification by Russia on November 18, 2004.
— The BBC's "Climate Chaos" season includes Are We Changing Planet Earth?, a two-part investigation into global warming by David Attenborough.
— The Stern Review is published. The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, says that it shows that scientific evidence of global warming was "overwhelming" and its consequences "disastrous".

[edit] See also

[edit] Endnotes


[edit] References

Timeline of environmental events

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