Environment and Conservation


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Click here for image of industrial pollution, Sheffield, UK, 1930s.


Environmental and Conservation Organisations – see Appendix 1


Global warming sea level rise Extinctions Other ecological disasters Key environmental publications Conservation efforts Environmental organisations


2017, The BBC broadcast Blue Planet II, galvanising the world to the dangers of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

2017, For the first time not one Right Whale calf was born in the northern Atlantic. Hunting them was banned in 1935; their numbers, then down to about 100, slowly recovered to 500 by 2000. Pollution, injuries from shipping, man-made marine noise, and entanglement in fishing paraphernalia have caused their humbers to drop again to 430 by 2017, including just 100 breeding-age females.

3/1/2016, The United Kingdom designated Ascension Island and its surrounding waters in the Atlantic Ocean as a Marine protected area. The reserve was almost as big as the UK with just over half of the protected area completely closed to fishing.

2015, 400 million tons of plastic was produced this year, compared to 2 million tons in 1950. Of this, only 9% was recycled; 12% was incinerated, and 79% ended up in landfill or polluting the environment, 8 million tons of plastic was estimated to enter the oceans annually.

26/6/2007, The UN declared the Galapagos Islands an endangered heritage site.

16/2/2005, The Kyoto Protocol came into force. The US had not signed up, for economic reasons.

26/7/2004, The Frozen Ark Project was launched, to preserve the DNA of endangered species.

2001, The Third Assessment Report of the IPCC warned that over the 21st century global sea levels could rise by between 9cm and 88cm, as global temperature rose by between 1.4C and 5.8C.

9/9/2000, For the first time, an entire city was exposed by the growing ‘ozone hole’; Puntas Arenas, in Chile.

6/1/2000, The Pyrenean Ibex became the first extinction of the new millennium when a tree fell on the last individual, killing it. A cloned kid was born in 2009 but only survived seven minutes.

29/1/1998, Shell announced that Brent Spar would be disposed of on shore, and used as the foundations for a new ferry terminal.

18/10/1995, DNV presented the results of their audit on Brent Spar; it did not contain anything like 5,500 tons of crude oil.

5/9/1995, Greenpeace admitted their claim that Brent Spar contained 5,500 tonnes of crude oil was inaccurate and apologised to Shell.

12/7/1995, Shell commissioned an independent Norwegian consultancy, Det Norske Veritas (DNV), to conduct an audit of the materials contained in the Brent Spar, to check Greanpeace’s allegations.

7/7/1995, Norway granted permission to moor the Brent Spar in Erfjord whilt options for its disposal were considered.

30/6/1995, Eleven states called for a moratorium on sea disposal of decommissioned offshore installations; the motion was opposed by Britain and Norway.

20/6/1995, Shell Oil Company caved in to international pressure and agreed not to dump the Brent Spar oil platform in the Atlantic.

15/6/1995, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl protested to the British Prime Minister John Major at the G7 Summit about the planned sinking of the Brent Spar.

14/6/1995, A week of protests across Germany began against Shell petrol stations; protestors threatened to firebomb 200 Shell filling stations. 50 were actually damaged, two fire-bombed, and one raked with bullets.

11/6/1995, Shell began to tow the Brent Spar out to the disposal site.

9/5/1995, The German Ministry of the Environment protested about the plans to sink the Brent Spar.

5/5/1995, The UK Government granted a disposal licence ti Shell to sink the Brent Spar.

30/4/1995, Greenpeace asserted that Brent Spar still contained 5,500 tonnes of crude oil.

4/1995, Greenpeace occupied the Brent Spar oil platform to prevent it’s being sunk in the North Sea.

12/1994, The UK Government approved Shell’s plans to sink the Brent Spar.

22/10/1994, In the USA, the Rhinoceros and Tiger Act came into force. It was intended to assist the preservation of these animals in countries where their habitat is.

1993, Shell decided to sink the Brent Spar oil platform in the North Sea, at the North Feni Ridge.

23/3/1993. The UN stated that record low levels of ozone had been registered over large areas of the Western Hemisphere.

1992, The United Nations Earth Summit was held. This led to the UN Framework Convention oin Climate Change, which came into force in 1994. This Framework called for developed countries to reduce CO2 emissions to 1990, and provided for technological assistance to developing countries. These measures were strengthened by the Kyoto Protocol, 1997.

14/2/1992, Michael Heseltine promised that the UK would phase out CFCs, which were destroying the ozone layer. Earlier on 11/2/1992 President Bush had made a similar commitment.

15/12/1991. Wildlife investigators uncovered an illegal plot to sell 15,000 elephant tusks for £6 million, in defiance of the international ban on the ivory trade. The 83 tons of ivory had been bought from the Government of Burundi by 2 South African businessmen, to sell in the Far East. 80% of Africa’s elephants had been slaughtered for their tusks in the previous 10 years.

9/1991. The Brent Spar oil platform ceased operations.

16/10/1989, At a committee of the Convention in International Trade of Endangered Species, at Lausanne, Switzerland, a ban on the international ivory trade was passed by 76 votes to 11.

5/3/1989, As environmental awareness grew worldwide, the Ozone Layer Conference opened in London.

17/2/1989. Scientists warned of a threat to the ozone layer over the Arctic.

1987, The Brundtland Report was published.

16/9/1987, 70 countries signed an agreement in Montreal to save the ozone layer, to freeze CFC production (used as a refrigeration gas) at current levels and halve it within 12 years. The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica had been discovered in 1984.

17/6/1987, The Dusky Seaside Sparrow became extinct as the last individual died.

29/12/1985, Dian Fossey, US zoologist and conservationist, died.

8/3/1985, Every Chinese child was ordered to donate one Feng (then equivalent to 2p) to save the Giant Panda from extinction.

4/3/1985, In the USA, the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of leaded fuel for motor vehicles.

31/8/1983, Russell Doig of Surrey won a special prize for catching a salmon in the Thames, the first salmon caught there for 150 years. The fish weighed 6 lb.

1982, Dutch Elm Disease killed 20 million elm trees in Britain, 66% of the total population.

23/7/1982, The International Whaling Commission decided to end whaling by 1986.

12/8/1980, The first Giant Panda born in captivity was successfully delivered at a zoo in Mexico.

1978, US Congress banned the manufacture of PCBs (Poly Chlorinated Biphenyls) after they had been shown to persist in the environment and build up in higher food chain animals. PCBs, once used as coolant and insulators for industrial equipment,  could cause liver damage and impede reproduction.

3/1/1980, British naturalist Joy Adamson, author of the book Born Free, was murdered in a Kenyan game park.

23/1/1978, Sweden became the first country to ban aerosol sprays, because of the damage they cause to the ozone layer.

11/5/1977. The USA said CFCs  would be banned as propellants in aerosol cans within two years, after worries about ozone depletion.

1976, The Brent Spar oil platform entered service in the North Sea.

10/7/1976. After an explosion at a chemical plant at Seveso, Italy, a 7 km radius was contaminated with dioxin, a weed killer. Crops and 40,000 animals died, and the number of abnormal births rose dramatically.

1974, US scientists M Molina and FS Rowland first warned the world about the damage being caused to the ozone layer by chlorofluorocarbons.

12/11/1974. A salmon was caught in the Thames, the first since around 1840. It was retrieved from the filters of West Thurrock power station.

30/8/1973, Kenya banned hunting elephants and trading in ivory.

28/12/1973, US President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act, providing further environmental protection

1972, The Club of Rome published ‘The Limits to Growth’, highlighting the dangers of natural resource depletion.

23/7/1972, The US launched Landsat I, a satellite that could monitor Earth’s natural resources and their depletion from space.

1971, It was announced that 250,000 tons of lead were being discharged from vehicle exhaust pipes every year in the US alone (see road transport technology). Lead pollution, first discovered in the animals at Staten Island Zoo, was also found inside humans living in New York.

1969, Muskoxen, which became extinct from Alaska in the 19c, were reintroduced there.

1968, Cousin Island, Seychelles, was set up as an international wild bird reserve.

15/10/1966, In the USA, the Endangered Species Preservation Act came into force. Initially, 78 species in danger were listed. By April 1999, some species, such as the bald eagle and the black footed ferret, have come off the critical list but a further 925 species remained listed.

1962, Rachel Carson published ‘Silent Spring’.

1958, A plague of locusts in Somalia was so large it covered 1,000 square kilometres.

1951, Britain’s first smokeless zone was set up, in Coventry. In 1955 London was declared a smokeless zone. In 1956 Britain passed the Clean Air Act.

22/12/1938. The coelacanth, a fish though to have been extinct for 65 million years, was caught off the coast of South Africa.

1935, In the US, President Roosevelt signed the Soil Conservation Act, nominating Hugh Hammond, 54, to head the new Soil Conservation Service. Hammond had estimated that in terms of diminished agricultural productivity alone, soil erosion was costing around US$ 400 million a year; dust storms were turning day into night and halting traffic.

3/4/1934, Jane Goodall, British zoologist who studied gorillas in Tanzania in the 1960s, was born.

18/1/1933, The botanist and conservationist David Bellamy was born.

16/12/1932, Dian Fossey, US zoologist and conservationist was born.

1929, In Britain, the National Smoke Abatement Society was set up.

1922, Australia began conservation measures to save the koala bear, after trappers had killed 8 million in 4 years and nearly driven the species to extinction.

1/9/1914, The last passenger pigeon, a bird which once dominated the skies of America, became extinct as the last individual died in Cincinnati Zoo.

1909, The USA set up a National Bison Refuge near Moise, Montana.

27/5/1907, Rachel Louise Carson, marine biologist and US author, author of Silent Spring, was born.

20/4/1906, An Australian wombat, the oldest known marsupial, died in London Zoo aged 26.

1903, President Theodore Roosevelt established the USA’s first national wildlife refuge, at Pelican Island, off the east coast of Florida, 87 square miles.

6/9/1902, Whale hunt in the Shetlands. 166 were caught.

1895, Arrhenius gave a paper to the Stockholm Physical Society propounding his theory of man-made global warming due to carbon dioxide.

1895, The buffalo, which had once numbered millions across America, was now down to just 400 in the entire USA.

12/8/1883, The last quagga died, at Amsterdam Zoo.

7/9/1880, In Britain, the Wild Birds’ Protection Act was passed.

1859, Arrhenius, Swedish scientist who first proposed that man’s industrial emissions could cause global warming, was born.

1858, A few dozen English rabbits were released on the Australian estate of landowner Thomas Austin, to provide shooting sport. Over the next six years, Austin shot 200,000 rabbits, but this was barely half the total population. Five of the fast-breeding animals could eat more grass than one sheep, so causing major problems for sheep farmers.

1856, In Britain, between 1853 and 1856, a series of Smoke Abatement Acts were passed in order to improve the quality of air in urban areas.

3/7/1844, The Great Auk became extinct when fishermen killed the last breeding pair of the flightless birds in Iceland.

1840, Kew Botanical Gardens, London, opened.

1683, Wild boars became extinct in Britain.

1630, The last dodo was killed. Native to Mauritius, it was a flightless bird about the size of a turkey, prized by saillors for food. Meanwhile, rats, pigs and monkeys introduced to Mauritius ate the dodo’s eggs.

1627, The last auroch (ancestor of domestic cattle) died in Poland.

1593, The first botanical gardens in France were established by the University of Montpellier.

26/6/1545. A botanical garden was established in Padua. This, or the garden in Pisa, is the oldest such garden in Europe.

1290, The last wolf in England was killed, by Peter Corbet, exterminator to King Edward I. This made it much safer to graze sheep. In turn this reinforced England’s leading position in the lucrative wool trade.

1281, King Edward I commissioned Peter Corbet, ‘The Mighty Hunter’, to clear all wolves from England’s forests.

1220, The first giraffes were exhibited in Europe.


Appendix 1 - Environmental and Conservation Organisations

1977, Sustrans was founded, in Bristol, to campaign for environmentally-sustainable transport and combat the problems of traffic congestion and pollution.

1976, Greenpeace was founded in Britain (see15/9/1971)

1975, In Britain the Ecological Party was founded – known since 1985 as the Green Party

15/9/1971, Greenpeace was founded, as a result of protests against a US nuclear test on Amchitka Island, Alaska. On this day Jim Bohlen, Paul Cote and Irving Stowe set sail in the boat Phyllis Cormack for the test site in the Quaker tradition of ‘proetsting by observing the misdeed’. The three protestors named their initiative ‘Greenpeace’. In the event ferocious storms both forced the boat to shelter in the Aleutian Islands and caused the nuclear test to be postponed. The test eventually took place on 6/11/1971; Greenpeace did succeed in mobilising public protests so that President Nixon cancelled the nuclear tests scheduled for 1971.

9/5/1971, In Britain, Friends of the Earth was founded. On this day its first action was to dump thousands of non-returnable Schweppes bottles on the doorstep of the company’s headquarters as part of a campaign for recyclable bottles.

29/4/1961, The World Wildlife Fund was founded in Switzerland.

1925, In Britain, the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) was set up.

1922, In London, UK,the International Council for Bird Preservation (ICBP) was founded.

5/1909, The Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia (WPSA) was founded in Sydney, Australia to encourage the protection of, and to cultivate interest in, the Australian flora and fauna.

1904, In Britain, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was founded,

11/12/1903, The first wildlife preservation society was formed in Britain.  It was called The Society for the Preservation of the Wild Fauna of the Empire.

1899, In Britain, the Coal Smoke Abatement Society was formed.

1895, In Britain, the National Trust was founded.


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