Timeline of history of environmentalism

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This timeline of the history of environmentalism is a listing of events that have shaped humanity's perspective on the environment. This timeline includes human induced disasters, environmentalists that have had a positive influence, and environmental legislation.


For a list of geological and climatological events that have shaped human history see Timeline of environmental history.

7th century

9th–12th centuries

14th century

15th century

16th century

17th century

— 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 of animal extinction. [8]

18th century

19th century

— The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is founded.
— World's 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.

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.
Tsunesaburo Makiguchi published Jinsei chirigaku (The Geography of Human Life [15] ) in October 1903
— The National Audubon Society is founded.
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.


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 and 100 million people worldwide



— Publication of Game Management by Aldo Leopold.
The Wilderness Society is founded.


Defenders of Wildlife founded.
— Fairfield Osborn publishes Our Plundered Planet.
— William Vogt publishes Road to Survival.
Aldo Leopold publishes A Sand County Almanac


World Meteorological Organization (WMO) established by the United Nations.
Drinking water fluoridation becomes an official policy of the U.S. Public Health Service to reduce tooth decay, soon followed by other countries.
Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act
— Harrison Brown publishes The Challenge of Man's Future.
Fish and Wildlife Act.


— 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. [18]
Federal Water Pollution Control Act
Murray Bookchin publishes Our Synthetic Environment
— The first White House Conservation Conference takes place.
Clean Air Act
Wilderness Act.
United States Postal Service releases John Muir stamp.
Northeast Blackout of 1965
Water Quality Act
Solid Waste Disposal Act
— Amendments to the Clean Air Act
Fur Seal Act.
National Historic Preservation Act
Air inversion in New York City
1966 Palomares B-52 crash
Ralph Nader publishes Unsafe at Any Speed
Torrey Canyon oil spill
— Amendments to the Clean Air Act.
Apollo 1 fire
National Trails System Act.
Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
Paul R. Ehrlich publishes The Population Bomb .
Zero Population Growth founded.
UNESCO hosts the Paris Biosphere Conference, which would ultimately result in the creation of the Man and the Biosphere Programme
Club of Rome founded.
— 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. [19]
— 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.
Friends of the Earth founded.
1969 Santa Barbara oil spill
Cuyahoga River Fire
Food and Drug Administration bans sodium cyclamate and places limits on the use of monosodium glutamate
René Dubos publishes So Human an Animal
— Ecologist Frank Fraser Darling invited to give the Reith Lectures.


— US Environmental Protection Agency established.
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.
Center for Science in the Public Interest founded.
— Environmental Action founded.
League of Conservation Voters founded.
Natural Resources Defense Council founded.
Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold is reissued.
Occupational Safety and Health Act
Public Interest Research Group founded.
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.
Public Citizen founded.
Calvert Cliffs' Coordinating Committee, Inc. v. United States Atomic Energy Commission
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.
The Blue Marble photograph
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) – major amendments
— (June 14) After seven months of hearings, the United States Environmental Protection Agency bans most uses of DDT. [20]
The Trust for Public Land founded.
Values Party founded.
A Blueprint for Survival published.
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 .
Cousteau Society founded.
— National Reserves Management Act.
— World human population reached 4 billion. [9]
— State Natural Heritage Program Network launched in the US.
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act
— Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act.
Abalone Alliance founded.
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founded.
New York City blackout of 1977
Ekofisk oil field spill.
— U.S. admits to neutron bomb testing.
Love Canal contamination revealed.
Amoco Cadiz oil spill
Samuel Epstein publishes The Politics of Cancer
David Ehrenfeld publishes The Arrogance of Humanism
Offshore drilling begins off the coast of New Jersey
Three Mile Island accident, worst nuclear power accident in US history.
Hans Jonas publishes The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of Ethics for the Technological Age .
Supersonic airliner Concorde is put in regular operation in spite of concern due to its sonic boom and the potential for its engine exhaust to damage the ozone layer. The last regular flight landed in 2003.
— Fifth largest oil spill ever when the S.S. Atlantic Empress collides with Aegean Captain off of Trinidad and Tobago


Earth First! founded
The Global 2000 Report to the President
International Union for Conservation of Nature publishes its World Conservation Strategy
William R. Catton, Jr. publishes Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change
Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act
Low Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of 1980
— United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is signed on December the 10th at Montego Bay. Part XII of which significantly developed port-state control of pollution from ships.
Bat Conservation International founded.
Co-op America founded.
Earth Island Institute founded.
Rocky Mountain Institute founded.
World Charter for Nature
Nuclear Waste Policy Act
— Evacuation of Times Beach, Missouri
Green Committees of Correspondence founded.
— North America Bioregional Congress founded.
Brundtland Commission appointed.
1984–1985 famine in Ethiopia
Worldwatch Institute publishes its first State of the World report.
— Chemical leak in Institute, West Virginia
Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior
Antarctic ozone hole discovered.
— FDA approved bovine somatotropin
Emergency Wetlands Resources Act.
Tetraethyllead phase-out was completed in the US.
Northern Rivers Rerouting Project abandoned by the USSR government.
— The Report of the Brundtland Commission, Our Common Future on sustainable development, is published.
Conservation International founded.
— First Debt-for-Nature Swap
— First meeting of the U.S. Greens
Montreal Protocol opened for signature.
National Appliance Energy Conservation Act
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".
Student Environmental Action Coalition founded.
— Lawsuit brought by Environmental Defense Fund results in McDonald's agreeing to use biodegradable containers.
Alternative Motor Fuels Act
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).
— influenced by protests by Kirishi residents, the USSR Supreme Soviet decides to close down the country's eight paraffin-fed single-cell protein plants. [21]
- The Natural Step founded.


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
Redwood Summer
Dolphin safe label introduced.
Leave No Trace education program developed by the United States Forest Service in conjunction with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).
— World's worst oil spill occurs in Kuwait during war with Iraq.
Kuwaiti oil fires
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 Oceans 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.
Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is established.
— 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.

21st century

— The IPCC release the IPCC Third Assessment Report.
European Heat Wave resulting in the premature deaths of at least 35,000 people.
FBI initiates Operation Backfire – an anti-terrorist law enforcement operation against "Eco-Radicals."
— 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 [23]
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.



See also

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