10,000 years ago, human society shifted from mobile hunting and gathering to sedentary farming. Farming allowed societies to grow and diversify because less people to produce more food to feed other classes like the nobility and clergy that would develop later. With this population increase man's ecological footprint grew larger.
The industrial revolution spurred development and allowed man to do more with seemingly less; however, the miracles of the time required massive amounts of fuel, and the use of fossil fuels became standardized. Their increased use began the wide-spread air pollution from the machines' emissions.
John Muir is born
John Muir was an influential force in the development of American environmental policy. Muir co-founded the Sierra Club in addition to creating Yosemite National Park, which are only a few of his achievements. He promoted preservation rather than conservation to protect the environment.
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
The novel Walden was a chief example of transcendentalism during this era. Transcendentalism promoted the environment as powerful and spiritual, spurring many to admire its innate beauty rather than consume its many resources.
The Homestead act promoted westward expansion, which was a clever tactic to protect western land and economic interests; however, it caused massive habitat fragmentation as farms were built across the territory that were previously undisturbed, diverse ecosystems.
Yellowstone National Park founded
Yellowstone was the first national park ever comissioned. It was the United States' introduction into serious environmental policies to protect the nation's forest land. Also its creation suggested that nature could be a tourist attraction, which helped to moderately shift the public opinion towards nature as a treasure rather than a consumable.
American Forestry Association founded
The organization was established in Chicago to expand public awareness for forestry. The association made the previously more obscure topics of forest preservation and conservation more mainstream.
General Revision Act
This critical legislation made timber monopolies illegal as well as limit land obtained through the Homestead Act. The act protected forests as well as served as a catalyst for policy reform in the environmental sector.
Sierra Club founded
The Sierra Club is an organization originally founded to protect the Sierra Nevada after the successful creation of Yosemite National Park. Over time the group has invovled itself in politics to promote revolutionary environmental policies. While their campaigns current and past may not be successful, the Sierra Club brings awareness to serious environmental issues.
The Lacey Act prohibits the trade and sale of illegally obtained fish, plants, and wildlife. The act was designed to prevent poaching, and decrease species endangerment. It has been amended several times to improve its effectiveness.
Theodore Roosevelt takes the Presidency
Golden Age of Conservation
President Theodore Roosevelt despite his part ties was quite progressive. He farthered the conservation effort more than any president before him.
First National Wildlife Refuge Established
The refuge set aside land to help conserve threatened (not specifically the red list definition) species. The first national wildlife refuge was created in Pelican Island, Florida. These lands provide an environment to help restore species ecologically, which helps safeguard biodiversity.
Audubon Society founded
This organization was founded to protect species, especially birds, from slaughter and extinction. The Audubon Society emphasized that not only was society obligated to protect the environment, but also the organisms that live in it.
U.S. Forest Service founded
The service was created to assess the conditions of the country's forests. Their purpose emphasizes the perception shift from simple protection to analyzing factors in the ecosystem.
Gifford Pinchot in office
Gifford Pinchot acted as the first chief of the United States Forest Service. He contributed greatly to the reform of forest management and development. Pinchot promoted conservation; while this system is less effective than preservation it was closer to the mainstream mind set. Conservation provided a compromise between the environmentalist and the industrialist making it a more easily accepted theory in environmental protection.
Also Leopold begins formal schooling
Aldo Leopold worked within the Forest Service. In his post in New Mexico, he emphasized the importance of the predator in an ecosystem. His revolutionary idea was opposite to the ideal of human dominance characteristic of the time period.
The Antiquities Act was designed to protect Native American artifacts and prehistoric sites. The legislation allowed a president to deem an area a national monument. Its expedience made it even easier to deem an area valuable and protected than going through Congress to make a National Park.
Congress bans further forest withdrawals
President Theodore Roosevelt sectioned off much of public land for preservation and conservatoin. Unfortunately, the Republicans historically sided with the business men at the time, so Congress stopped Roosevelt from continued conservation efforts.
U.S. National Park service founded
The National Park Service was created to provide focused governmental efforts toward protecting certain lands that were deemed national parks. By separating from other departments the National Parks Service obtained more power to help them protect ecosystems within parks.
Dust Bowl blows through
The Dust Bowl was the result of poor farming practices, and an extreme drought. It left many farmers jobless and homeless. The Great Depression parallels the crisis. Although dust contaminated many ecosystems, the period was characterized by a record low of pollution.
Soil Conservation Service founded
Orginally the organization was formed to provide technical assistance to farmers and other land owners regarding soil management. Later it was expanded to promote the conservation of all natural resources on private land. The Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resources Conservation Service) promotes sustainability by emphasizing the value of natural resources.
Civilian Conservation Corps founded
The Civilian Conservation Corps was a relief program that provided jobs for some unemployed during the Great Depression. The Corp cleaned cities and renovated parks under President Franklin D. Roosevelts program. The CCC promoted optimism, well being, and environmental stewardship.
Taylor Grazing Act
The act organized grazing planes to regulate and control livestock grazing. The addition of governmental controls helped to minimize ecological damage to the area. Also the act requires the lands to be maintained making the grazing process more sustainable.
Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act
Overshooting and massive droughts had devastated the United States' duck and geese populations. To protect the species from further destruction Congress passed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act. The act provided funds for wetland and conservation and required waterfowl hunters to obtain a duck stamp. The act was a key moment in wetland protection.
Fish and Wildlife Service founded
Originally the organization was created to generate solutions for the decrease in fish from fisheries that characterized the time period of overfishing. Over the years the Service's responsibilities have multiplied. Now the Fish and Wildlife Service enforces wildlife laws and protecting species and their environments.
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodentcide Act (FIFRA) established government controls over the distribution, sale, and use of pesticides. These regulations helped limit environmental damage from harmful chemicals.
Silent Spring published
Rachel Carson's Silent Spring outlined the danger of pesticides in the environment. The title literally references a spring without birds and other common sounds associated with nature. The book brought awareness to the dangers of many household, chemical products.
Clean Air Act
Though it was first passed by President Johnson, the Clean Air Act was not particularly effective until its amendment in 1970. The Clean Air Act established regulations for emissions in parts per million for chemicals that are deemed hazardous. Overtime the act has grown stricter, and provides funds for research of possible pollutants.
The act defines wilderness and created the National Wilderness Preservation System. The act finally allowed the government to protected federal wilderness.
Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
The act established the Natoinal Wild and Scenic Rivers System, which protects sections of rivers that Congress or the Secretary of the Interior deems wilderness or scenic. This represents an expansion of the preservation from forests and wetlands to rivers.
Cuyahoga River catches fire
During the 20th century the Cuyahoga River was one of the most polluted river in the nation; it was even devoid of fish and plant life. One day it caught fire and attracted the attention of Time magazine. This incident brought attention to the dangers o river pollution.
The National Environmental Policy Act states that environmental factors will weigh evenly with others in the governmental decision making process. This illustrates environmental issues growing influence in government.
Firsrt Earth Day
The 1st Earth day was essentially a political rally to promote environmental reform. Environmental concerns had finally reached the public. This is one of the events that catalyzed the formation of the EPA.
Environmental Protection Agency established
The EPA gave the government the ability to deal with environmental concerns directly, giving the government more power, and even greater responsibility for the environment. The EPA emphasizes the growing government and public concern for environmental issues in the late 20th century.
Clean Water Act
The CWA gives the EPA the responsibility to restore polluted water; however, its provisions do not cover groundwater. The Clean Water Act illustrates the growing concern for the environment as a whole rather than small preserved pieces of it.
OPEC oil embargo
The oil crisis drastically reduced the amount of oil available in the United States during the mid to late 70s. The scarcity of oil emphasized the importance of conserving resources. This along with other factors caused environmental policies and ideals to become more mainstream in the 1980s.
Endangered Species Act
The devastation to the bison population and the disappearance introduced American society to extinction in the late eighteen hundreds. Though passed much later, the Endangered Species Act was one of the responses to this phenomena. The Endangered Species Act classified and protected species that are in danger of becoming extinct in the future. The preventitive method established in this act represented a shift, though not across all of society, from conservation to preservation.
Molina and Rowland publish in Nature
Their research into CFCs showed that they destroy ozone. The CFC compound doesn't decompose until it decays from intense solar radiation. The decomposed chlorine catalyzes a reaction that destroys the ozone in the ozone layer. Their research catalyzed environmental policies that banned CFCs and protected the ozone layer from further devastation.
Many urban areas were suffering from excess amounts of industrial and municipal waste. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act sets standards for waste management and was established to combat this human health and environmental problem. The RCRA manages waste, which decreases pollution.
Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act
This act regulates active coal mines and oversees the reclamation of abandonned sites. The focus on reclaiming spoiled land emphasizes sustainability.
Love Canal Incident
Hooker Chemical Company stored over twenty thosand tons of toxic chemicals underground and sold the land. The next owners disturbed the sites clay boundary, which separated the toxic waste from the rest of the land. The area was evacuated ten years later after being declared a national disaster zone. The Love Canal incident illustrated the danger and vulnerability of waste storage.
3 Mile Island Incident
A cooling failure caused part of the core to melt, destroying one of the reactors. The plant released radioactive gas on overheating. The accident illustrated the danger of nuclear energy.
Alaskan Land Act
The act created hundreds of thosands of acres of park land, and wildlife refuge areas. President Carter utilized the Antiquities Act to accelerate the process. This mass preservation effort helped maintain some of the United States biodiversity.
In response to disasters like the Love Canal incident Congress passed the Superfund. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act gives the government the right and responsibilty to clean up contaminated sites. The CERCLA additionally established the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
Bhopal Gas Tragedy
One night, gas leaked out of a company's pipes that was heavy in methyl isocyanate. The gas spread to the shanty town surrounding the buiding and killed thosands. This disaster illustrates the importance of well maintained waste management systems especially when toxic substances are involved.
In a Russian nuclear power there was a power surge. The surge lead to an emergency shut down; however, the process caused a greater spike creating a series of reactions. The plant sprayed radioactive fallout across the continent from Russia into some parts of Europe. It is considered the worst nuclear power plant accident relative to cost and casualties.
The Montreal Protocal is an international treaty designed to phase out the use of products that deplete the ozone layer. The treaty represents the productivity of international cooperation in environmental policy.
Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
An oil tanker named the Exxon Valdez collided with Bligh Reef spilling millions of gallons into the ocean. The failures of the crew and management were numerous. The environmental disaster emphasized the devastating impact of human negligence.
Energy Policy of 1992
The act outlines numerous terms regarding energy consumption and preservation in the United States. The act was designed to contribute to decreasing the United States' reliance on imported energy. The concept of self-sufficiency strived for with this act promotes sustainability.
Desert Protection Act
The act expands Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks as well as Mojave National Preserve. Also more monuments would be added to the parks. The effects of the act illustrate the increased importance and value of the environment in the social perspective.
It is an international treaty designed to decrease green house gases. Interestingly, the United States has not signed it. This international agreement emphasizes the importance of international cooperation in achieving large-scale environmental goals.
Population hits 6 billion
The addition of the latest one billion was faster than ever before. This dramatic population growth placed more strain on the environment and its natural resources.