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, human induced disasters, environmentalists that have had a positive influence, and environmental legislation.


[edit] Other events and periods

[edit] Holocene

[edit] 10th millennium BCE

World: Sea levels rise abruptly and massive inland flooding occurs due to glacier melt.
Bering Sea: Land bridge from Siberia to North America disappears as sea level rises.
— North America: Long Island becomes an island when rising waters break through on the western end to the interior lake
  • Circa 9700 BCE — Lake Agassiz forms from glacial melt-water.
  • Circa 9600 BCE — Younger Dryas cold period ends. Pleistocene ends and Holocene begins. Large amounts of previously glaciated land become habitable again.
  • Circa 9500 BCE — Ancylus Lake, part of the modern-day Baltic Sea, forms.
  • Circa 9000 BCE - end of the pre-Boreal period of European climate change. Pollen Zone IV Pre-boreal, associated with juniper, willow, birch pollen deposits.

[edit] 9th millennium BCE

  • Circa 8000 BCE — World - Rising Sea levels.
— 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.[citation needed]
World human population reaches 1 million.
— North America - The glaciers were receding and by 8,000 BCE the Wisconsin had withdrawn completely.
World - Inland flooding due to catastrophic glacier melt takes place in several regions.

[edit] 8th millennium BCE

[edit] 7th millennium BCE

— Rising sea levels form the Torres Strait, separate Australia from New Guinea.
— Increasing desiccation of the Sahara. End of the Saharan Pluvial period.
— Associated with Pollen Zone VI Atlantic, oak-elm woodlands, warmer and maritime climate. Modern wild fauna plus, increasingly, human introductions, associated with the spread of the Neolithic farming technologies.
— Rising sea levels from glacial retreat flood what will become the Irish Sea, separating the island of Ireland from the British Isles and Continental Europe.

[edit] 6th millennium BCE

  • Circa 5600 BCE — 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.
  • Circa 5500 BCE — 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.
  • Circa 5000 BCE — The Older Peron transgression, a global warm period, begins.
  • 5000 BCE — Use of a sail begins. The first known picture is on an Egyptian urn found in Luxor.

[edit] 4th millennium BCE

  • Circa 3600 BCE - 2800 BCE — Climatic deterioration in Western Europe and the Sahara. In Europe Pollen zone VII Sub Boreal, oak and beech. Glacial advances of the Priora oscillation, with lower economic prosperity in areas not able to irrigate in the Middle East.
  • Circa 3100 BCE — The Indus Valley Civilization constructs the first advanced system of drainage.

[edit] 3rd millennium BCE

  • 2900 BCE — Floods at Shuruppak from horizon to horizon, with sediments in Southern Iraq, stretching as far north as Kish, and as far south as Uruk, associated with the return of heavy rains in Nineveh and a potential damming of the Karun River to run into the Tigris. This ends the Jemdet Nasr period and ushers in the Early Dynastic Period of Sumer cultures of the area. Possible association of this event with the Biblical deluge.
  • 2650 BCE — Sumerian 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.
  • 2600 BCE — First artificial sewage systems constructed in the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro of the Indus valley. There were networks of brick-lined sewage drains and outdoor flush toilets connected.
  • 2500 BCE — Sahara becomes fully desiccated. Desiccation had been proceeding from 6000 BCE, as a result of the shift in the West African tropical monsoon belt southwards from the Sahel. Subsequent rates of evaporation in the region led to a drying of the Sahara, as shown by the drop in water levels in Lake Chad. Tehenu of the Sahara attempt to enter into Egypt, and there is evidence of a Nile drought in the pyramid of Unas.
  • 2200 BCE — Beginning of a severe centennial-scale drought in northern Africa, southwestern Asia and midcontinental North America, which very likely caused the collapse of the Old Kingdom in Egypt as well as the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia.

[edit] 2nd millennium BCE

  • 1900 BCE — The Atra-Hasis Epic describes Babylonian flood, with warnings of the consequences of human overpopulation.
  • 1450 BCE — Minoan civilization in the Mediterranean declines, but scholars are divided on the cause. Possibly a volcanic eruption was the source of the catastrophe (see Minoan eruption). 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.
  • 1206 BCE - 1187 BCE — Evidence of major droughts in the Eastern Mediterranean. Hittite and Ugarit records show requests for grain were sent to Egypt, probably during the reign of Pharaoh Merenptah. Carpenter has suggested that droughts of equal severity to those of the 1950s in Greece, would have been sufficient to cause the Late Bronze Age collapse. The cause may have been a temporary diversion of winter storms north of the Pyrenees and Alps. Central Europe experienced generally wetter conditions, while those in the Eastern Mediterranean were substantially drier. There seems to have been a general abandonment of peasant subsistence agriculture in favour of nomadic pastoralism in Central Anatolia, Syria and northern Mesopotamia, Palestine, the Sinai and NW Arabia.
  • c 2000 BCE-1000 BCE - The Sarasvati River dries up. Desertification of the Thar Region begins.

[edit] 1st millennium BCE

  • 800 BCE - 500 BCE — Sub-Atlantic period in Western Europe. Pollen Zone VIII, sub-Atlantic. End of last Sea Level rise. Spread of "Celtic fields", Iron Age A, and Haalstadt Celts. Increased prosperity in Europe and the Middle East.
  • 500 BCE — Roman Republic, Cloaca Maxima (big sewer) is built in Rome by Etruscan dynasty of Tarquins. As Rome grows, a network of cloacae (sewers) and aqueducts are built.
World human population reached 100 million[1].
  • 250 BCE — Ashoka introduces animal welfare legislation in India
  • Circa 225 BCE — The Sub-Atlantic began about 225 BCE (estimated on the basis of radiocarbon dating) and has been characterized by increased rainfall, cooler and more humid climates, and the dominance of beech forests. The fauna of the Sub-Atlantic is essentially modern although severely depleted by human activities. The Sub-Atlantic is correlated with pollen zone IX; sea levels have been generally regressive during this time interval, though North America is an exception.
  • Circa 200 BCE — Sri Lanka first country in the world to have a nature reserve, King Devanampiyatissa established a wildlife sanctuary

[edit] 1st millennium CE

  • 100 to 400 — 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.
  • 535-536: global climate abnormalities affecting several civilizations.

[edit] 7th century

[edit] 8th century

[edit] 9th century

  • Circa 850 — Severe drought exacerbated by soil erosion causes collapse of Central American city states and the end of the Classic Maya civilization.

[edit] 2nd millennium CE

[edit] 13th century

[edit] 14th century

  • Great Famine of 1315–1317
  • 1347 to 1350s — Bubonic 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.
  • 1388 — Parliament 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 physician 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

  • 1609 — Hugo Grotius publishes Mare Liberum (The Free Sea) with arguments for the new principle that the sea was international territory and all nations were free to use it for seafaring trade. The ensuing debate had the British empire and France claim sovereignty over territorial waters to the distance within which cannon range could effectively protect it, the three mile (5 km) limit.
  • 1640 — Isaac Walton writes The Compleat Angler about fishing and conservation.
  • 1662 — John 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 1-acre (4,000 m2) of trees for every five acres cleared.
— The last Mauritius dodo dies. The extinction was due to hunting, but also by the pigs, rats, dogs and cats brought to the island by settlers. Later the species has become an icon on animal extinction[2].

[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.
  • 1711 — Jonathan 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.
  • 1739 — Benjamin 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.
  • 1773 — William 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 Zeidler first synthesises DDT, later to be used as an insecticide.
General Revision Act.
  • 1892 — John Muir, (1838 - 1914), founded the Sierra Club.
  • 1895 — Sewage cleanup in London means the return of some fish species (grilse, whitebait, flounder, eel, smelt) to the River Thames.

[edit] 20th century

— 7300 hectares of land in the Lake District of the Andes foothills in Patagonia are donated by Francisco Moreno as the first park, Nahuel Huapi National Park, in what eventually becomes the National Park System of Argentina.
San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fires destroy much of the city.
— 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.

[edit] 1910s
Scientific American reports alcohol-gasoline anti-knock blend is "universally" expected to be the fuel of the future. Seven years later, in Public Health Service hearings, General Motors and Standard Oil spokesmen will claim that there are no alternatives to leaded gasoline as an anti-knock additive.
— 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.
- Spanish Flu kills between 50 to 100 million people worldwide

[edit] 1920s

[edit] 1930s
  • 1930 — World human population reached 2 billion[3].
  • 1932 to 1937 — Exceptional precipitation absence in northern hemisphere exacerbated by human activities causes the Dust Bowl drought of the US plains and the Soviet famine of 1932-1933 (harsh economic damage in US and widespread death in USSR)
  • 1933 — First legislation on Animal rights adopted, Germany[6].
— Publication of Game Management by Aldo Leopold.

[edit] 1940s

[edit] 1950s
World Meteorological Organization (WMO) established by the United Nations.
Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act
  • 1956 — Minamata disease, a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning.
Fish and Wildlife Act.

[edit] 1960s
  • 1960 — World human population reached 3 billion[3].
— 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.
Wallace Stegner writes the Wilderness Letter, credited with helping lead to Wilderness Act.[7]
  • 1961 — World Wildlife Fund (WWF) registered as a charitable trust in Morges, Switzerland, an international organization for the conservation, research and restoration of the natural environment.
  • 1962 — Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring.
  • 1964 — Norman Borlaug takes position as the director of the International Wheat Improvement Program in Texcoco, Mexico. The program leads to the green revolution.
— Wilderness Act.
Fur Seal Act.
National Trails System Act.
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 [8].
— The Icelandic summer-spawning herring stock collapses as a result of a combination of high fishing pressure and deteriorating environmental conditions. From being a stock that was distributed over large areas in the North Atlantic, the stock was reduced to a small stock in Norwegian coastal waters. International efforts have later started to rebuild the stock.
— Category 5 Hurricane Camille caused damage and destruction across much of the Gulf Coast of the United States.

[edit] 1970s
  • 1970 — Earth Day - April 22., 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.
— US Environmental Protection Agency established.
Clean Air Act.
Resource Recovery Act.
Francis A. Schaeffer publishes Pollution and the Death of Man.
Arne Næss leads the non-violent civil disobedience protest against damming of the Mardalsfossen waterfall, later publishing on the deep ecology philosophy.
  • 1971 — The international environmental organisation Greenpeace founded in Vancouver, Canada. Greenpeace has later developed national and regional offices in 41 countries worldwide.
International Institute for Environment and Development established in London, UK. One offshoot is the World Resources Institute with its biannual report World Resources since 1984.
— Nonprofit Keep America Beautiful launches the nationwide "Crying Indian" television public service advertisement, reaching nearly every American household.
United Nations Environment Programme founded as a result of the Stockholm conference.
— the Oslo Convention on dumping waste at sea, later merged with the Paris Convention on land-based sources of marine pollution into the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic.
— The Club of Rome publishes its report Limits to Growth, which has sold 30 million copies in more than 30 translations, making it the best selling environmental book in world history.
Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (also known as Ocean Dumping Act).
Noise Control Act.
Clean Water Act.
Coastal Zone Management Act.
First photograph of the whole illuminated Earth taken from space, Apollo 17, resulting in the famous "Blue Marble" photograph, said to have been at least partly responsible for launching the modern environmental movement.
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) - major amendments
  • 1973 — OPEC announces oil embargo against United States.
World Conservation Union (IUCN) meeting drafts the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
Endangered Species Preservation Act.
E. F. Schumacher publishes Small Is Beautiful.
National Reserves Management Act.
— World human population reached 4 billion[3].
— State Natural Heritage Program Network launched in the US.
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act.
Three Mile Island, worst nuclear power accident in US history.
Hans Jonas publishes The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of Ethics for the Technological Age.

[edit] 1980s
Superfund (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act or CERCLA)
Emergency Wetlands Resources Act.
Tetra-ethyl lead phase-out was completed in the US.
Northern Rivers Rerouting Project abandoned by the USSR government.
  • 1987 — World human population reached 5 billion[3].
— The Report of the Brundtland Commission, Our Common Future on sustainable development, is published.
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".
  • 1989 — Exxon Valdez creates largest oil spill in US history.
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).

[edit] 1990s
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, and served as the basis of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Clean Air Act - major amendment
  • 1991 — The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty was signed 4 October. The agreement provides for the protection of the Antarctic environment through five specific annexes on marine pollution, fauna, and flora, environmental impact assessments, waste management, and protected areas. It prohibits all activities relating to mineral resources except scientific.
— World's worst oil spill occurs in Kuwait during war with Iraq.
Global Environment Facility (GEF) was established by donor governments.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change opened for signature on 9 May ahead of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
— The international Convention on Biological Diversity opened for signature on 5 June in connection with the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
World Ocean Day began on 8 June at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
— The Canadian government closes all eastern seaboard fishing grounds due to insufficient recovery of the stock.
— Ireland's Environmental Protection Agency established.
— The metaphor Ecological footprint is coined by William Rees.
— The first genetically modified food crop released to the market. It remains a strongly controversial environmental issue.
  • 1995 — Scotland's Environmental Protection Agency is established.
  • 1996 — Western Shield, a wildlife conservation project is started in Western Australia, and through successful work has taken several species off of the state, national, and international (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 human population reached 6 billion[3].

[edit] 21st century

— The IPCC release the IPCC Third Assessment Report.
— European Heat Wave resulting in the premature deaths of at least 35,000 people.
  • 2004 — Earthquake causes large tsunamis in the Indian Ocean, killing nearly a quarter of a million people.
FBI initiates Operation Backfire - an anti-terrorist law enforcement operation against "Eco-Radicals."
  • 2005 — Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma cause widespread destruction and environmental harm to coastal communities in the US Gulf Coast region.
— 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".
— World human population reached 6.5 billion[9]
Power Shift 2007 - the first National Youth Climate Conference, held in College Park, MD and Washington, D.C. November 2-5, 2007. Power Shift 2007: The Energy Action Coalition saw over 5,000 youth converge in Washington, D.C. to build their movement, lobby congress, and make a statement about the way youth feel about Global Warming.
  • 2009 - Power Shift 2009 - The Energy Action Coalition hosted the second national youth climate conference to be held at the Washington Convention Center from February 27 to March 2, 2009. The conference aims to attract more than 10,000 students and young people and will include a Lobby Day.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] Further reading

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