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Environmental History Timeline

By Nirmine
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  • Battle of Matewan

    Battle of Matewan
    Coal mine guards attempt to evict miners from homes owned by a coal company in the town of Matewan, West Virginia. As the mine guards try to serve what mayor Cabell Testerman calls “bogus” eviction notices, a gun battle breaks out. The mayor and two deputies are killed, but sheriff Sid Hatfield and the other deputies kill seven of the mine guards. Hatfield becomes famous for standing up to the coal companies and faces several legal charges in the aftermath.
  • Public Health Act (UK)

    Public Health Act (UK)
    Expands Alkali Acts of 1863 and 1906 to control any chemical process considered to cause serious pollution. A public inquiry is to be held before each extension and the authority of an order laid before Parliament for any extension. Also extended in 1958. (Hunter, 1955).
  • River and Harbor Act

    River and Harbor Act
    Gave Corps of Engineers task of surveying and planning navigation system for inland waters. Previously federal money had been spent primarily on harbor improvements.
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  • Meuse River Valley smog incident

     Meuse River Valley smog incident
    three day weather inversion in this industrial valley holds in smoke and kills 70, with 6,000 made ill in Belgium. An official report published in January, 1931 says that only among those over 55 years old or sufferers from heart and asthmatic disorders were affected. The concentration at ground level of sulfuric-acid fumes produced by the oxidation of hydrogen sulphide from coal combustion was also a big problem, although fluoride from industries was also suspected in the deaths.
  • Civilian Conservation Corps

    Civilian Conservation Corps
    The Civilian Conservation Corps were formed. At the height of the Depression-era program, 2,000 camps are open, millions of trees are planted, and roads, fire towers, buildings and bridges and many other public works are built. More than 2.5 million people serve until program ends in 1942. Other federal programs, including the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Soil Conservation Service, begin during FDR presidency.
  • New London School Explosion

    New London School Explosion
    Leaking natural gas from nearby oilfields devastates a school in New London, Texas, killing at least 295 students and teachers. One lesson learned: natural gas needs “odorants” so that people can tell when gas is leaking. Regulations requiring natural gas suppliers to add odorants are quickly adopted in the wake of the tragedy.
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  • Bald Eagle Preservation Act

    Bald Eagle Preservation Act
    US Congress passes Bald Eagle Preservation Act which prohibits selling, killing, or possessing the species.
  • Texas City Disaster

    Texas City Disaster
    Was the deadliest industrial accident in US history, killing at least 581 people when cargo of approximately 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate detonated, The disaster triggered the first ever class action lawsuit against the United States government, under the then-recently enacted Federal Tort Claims Act, on behalf of 8,485 victims.
  • Donora, Pennsylvania smog incident

    Donora, Pennsylvania smog incident
    .Twenty people died, 600 hospitalized and thousands strickened in this nationally publicized environmental disaster. See Earth Island Institute article, The Donora Fluoride Fog. The incident is now commemorated by a state marker.
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  • B-29 Explosion

    B-29 Explosion
    B-29 bomber carrying a nuclear weapon crashes and burns trying to make an emergency return to base after taking off from Travis Air Force Base (then Fairfield-Suisun Air Force Base) in California. Eighteen killed, 60 injured. Apparently this is the first of dozens, if not hundreds, of nuclear weapons accidents (also known as “Broken Arrow” incidents).
  • Chalk River nuclear test reactor explodes

    Chalk River nuclear test reactor explodes
    Chalk River nuclear test reactor explodes in Ontario. No one is killed, but thousands are exposed to highly radioactive waste.
  • Russell-Einstein Manifesto

    Russell-Einstein Manifesto
    Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell issue a manifesto calling for an end to nuclear weapons. All, equally, are in peril, and, if the peril is understood, there is hope that they may collectively avert it.
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  • Atomic Dumping in Mediterranean

    Atomic Dumping in Mediterranean
    Jacques Cousteau and Prince Rainier III of Monaco publicly oppose French plan to dump radioactive wastes into the Mediterranean Sea. The French decide not to go ahead.
  • Nuclear Test Ban Treaty between U.S. and U.S.S.R.

    Nuclear Test Ban Treaty between U.S. and U.S.S.R.
    Nuclear Test Ban Treaty between U.S. and U.S.S.R. (Russia) stops above ground tests of nuclear weapons, but massive explosions keep scattering radiation around the world. The accumulation of radioactive strontium 90 in children’s teeth is the focus on one study that helped move the nuclear tests to slightly safer underground locations.
  • Aswan High Dam Floodgates

    Aswan High Dam Floodgates
    Aswan High Dam floodgates open on the after the switch is thrown by Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nassar and Soviet premier Nikita Kruschev. Since the dam innundated an area of major international importance, the United Nations responded by creating World Heritage sites which, theoretically, have more international protection. The dam is an environmental problem in other ways that were not expected, such as increasing human disease and soil erosion along the Nile.
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  • First Earth Day Celebration

    First Earth Day Celebration
    Earth Day celebration in San Francisco, organized by John McConnell. Although not a nationwide celebraton, McConnell and supporters claim that their was the first grass roots Earth Day celebration.
  • Whale Product Imports Banned

    Whale Product Imports Banned
    Whale product imports banned by Interior Department in one of Walter Hickel’s last acts as secretary. At the time, the US imported 30 percent of the worlds whale products and used them in pet foods, margarine, soap and machine oil.
  • Arab oil embargo

    Arab oil embargo
    Arab oil embargo panics U.S. and European consumers; prices quadruple. The energy shock leads to national soul-searching about energy priorities. Conservatives favor nuclear and coal sources; liberals explore alternatives. President Nixon insists that US can be energy independent by 1980.
  • Safe Drinking Water Act is Passed

    Safe Drinking Water Act is Passed
    Congress passes Safe Drinking Water Act to be administered by EPA.
  • Green Belt Movement

    Green Belt Movement
    World Environment Day is the occasion for the start of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, founded by Waangari Matthai. Seven small saplilngs are planted that day, but by 1992, the Green Belt Movement had planted over 7 million saplings, demonstrating that low-cost grass roots organizations can be as effective as bureaucratic anti – desertification projects.
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  • Love Canal

    Love Canal
    President Carter announces the relocation of 700 families in the Love Canal area of Niagara Falls, New York, who had been exposed to toxic wastes deposited there by Hooker Chemical company.
  • PCB Landfill

    PCB Landfill
    Attempts to build a PCB landfill in an African American neighborhood in Warren County, N.C. result in demonstrations and trigger a nationwide movement for environmental justice.
  • Bhopal Disaster

    Bhopal Disaster
    Union Carbide Co. (Dow Chemical) fertilizer plant leaks methyl ico-cyanide in Indian town of Bhopal. The death toll: over 3,700 dead immediately, another 8,000 die within a few weeks and yet another 8,000 die of chronic effects. The International Medical Commission on Bhopal estimates that as of 1994 upwards of 50,000 people remained partially or totally disabled.
  • Lake Nyos Disaster

    Lake Nyos Disaster
    A cloud of carbon dioxide gas boils out of Lake Nyos in Cameroon, Africa, killing 1,700 people. The gas cloud hugged the ground and flowed quickly down valleys, travelling as far as 15 miles (25 km) from the lake and moving fast enough to flatten vegetation, including a few trees. The natural disaster is especially significant when considering schemes for fossil fuel “carbon capture” and “sequestration” technologies as a presumed method to forestall global warming.
  • War in Kuwait and Iraq

    War in Kuwait and Iraq
    War in Kuwait and Iraq creates environmental disaster with massive oil spills and depleted uranium bullets. Asthma and childhood cancers rise dramatically in Kuwait and southern Iraq.
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  • Korean Foundation for Environmental Movement

    Korean Foundation for Environmental Movement
    Founded by Choi Yul, a South Korean environmental activist. Yul donated all the prize money from 1995 Goldman Environmental Award towards building a citizens’ environmental center in Seoul. The national center, educational center, information center(CICE), editorial room etc are housed in it. Some 25 local branches work with 25,000 members in various fields such as anti-nuclear power movement, save-our sea campaigns, educational activities, and citizens' watch programs.
  • North American Free Trade Agreement Debate

    North American Free Trade Agreement Debate
    North American Free Trade Agreement debate shows differences of opinion among mainstream environmental groups. Environmental Defense Fund and National Wildlife Federation support treaty mostly because of economic benefits to Mexico, which could help encourage environmental protection. Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth oppose the treaty because there are no safeguards for environmental protection.
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  • 9/11

    Within a year, 358 firefighters and five emergency medical service personnel involved in the WTC rescue and recovery efforts will be placed on medical leave or light-duty assignments due to respiratory problems. Many of the sick firefighters had not used proper safety gear and now have “WTC cough,” which refers to a combination of sinus congestion and irritation of the throat, lower airways, and esophageal tract.
  • Hurricane Katrina

    Hurricane Katrina
    Hurricane Katrina makes landfall in Louisiana and breeches the New Orleans levees, killing 1.464 people. The disaster was predicted three years earlier by the New Orleans newspaper. Conservatives immediately blame environmentalists for opposing the initial Corps of Engineers levee system design, but a Sept. 28, 2005 report by the General Accounting Office found that “Corps staff believes that flooding would have been worse if the original proposed design had been built.”
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  • Deepwater Horizon Disaster

    Deepwater Horizon Disaster
    An explosion kills 11 and badly injures 17 on this drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Louisiana coast. About 206 million gallons of oil spill and, driven by wind and tides, devastate fragile coastal environments from Louisiana to Florida. The well is finally plugged on Sept. 19, 2010. It’s one of the largest petroleum related accidents in history.