Environment and Conservation
Page last modified 20/9/2020
See International for global population, and demography maps
See also Climate/weather
Click here for current, historic atmospheric CO2 levels, https://www.co2.earth/daily-co2
Click here for UK sea flood risk levels by amount of sea level rise, 1 metre – 60 metres, http://flood.firetree.net/
UK Environment Agency, https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/environment-agency
UK Environment Agency, flooding and extreme weather, https://www.gov.uk/browse/environment-countryside/flooding-extreme-weather
World Resources Institute, https://www.wri.org/
“Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret”, Horace. You can expel nature with a pitchfork, but she will keep returning.
God will not seek thy race, nor will he ask thy birth. Alone he will demand of thee “What hast thou done with the land that I gave thee”, Persian Proverb
In fighting Nature, Man can win every battle, except the last, Thor Heyerdahl
Extinctions – see Appendix 1
Whaling – see Appendix 2
Environmental and Conservation Organisations – see Appendix a
Global warming sea level rise Extinctions Other ecological disasters Key environmental publications Conservation efforts Environmental organisations Zoologocal Gardans, Zoos.
1/1/2020, Palau became the first nation to ban the import or sale of sunscreens containing chemicals toxic to coral. Half of sunscreen brands on sale in 2018 contained chemicals poisonous to coral even in trace amounts, and the area is a favoured destination for diving. Hawaii announced a similar ban in 5/2018, to come into effect in 2021.
1/11/2019, Fracking was banned in England after a series of earthquakes of up to magnitude 2.5 in the Blackpool area were attributed to it. Fracking was already banned in the rest of the UK.
24/8/2019, Concern grew worldwide after widespread large fires burnt large areas of the Amazon rainforest. There were also blazes in Siberia and Alaska, as unusually warm air reached there, and in the African and east Asian rainforests. President Bolsonaro of Brazil was accused by President Macron of France, hosting the G7 meeting at this time, of encouraging farmers to burn large areas for agriculture. There were protests outside several Brazilian embassies.
5/2019, Maine became the first US State to ban single-use Styrofoam containers for food and drink. The law was to come into effect in 2021, giving businesses time to adapt.
2017, The BBC broadcast Blue Planet II, galvanising the world to the dangers of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.
22/4/2016, Leaders of 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement, setting an accord for tackling climate change.
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.
19/6/2006, On Spitzbergen, construction work began on a vault to preserve seeds for future generations in the event of a catastrophe such as nuclear war.
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.
1990, The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) was formed at the second World Climate Change Conference.
16/10/1989, At a committee of the Convention in International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), at Lausanne, Switzerland, a ban on the international ivory trade was passed by 76 votes to 11. This caused the price of ivory to plummet from US$100 per lb to under 2$. Previously, poachers had reduced the African elephant population from 1.3 million in 1979 to 610,000 in 1989.
22/3/1989, The University of Wuppertal, Germany, inaugurated a research programme to monitor the Earth’s ozone layer. The system comprised a satellite spectroradiometer to be launched into orbit in 1993.
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.
18/11/1988, Two years after a serious pollution incident damaged the Rhine River, the first warning station in a chain of sensors was installed at Huningue, France, to monitor the river for pollutants.
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. Annual production of chlorofluorocarbons, whose release was damaging the ozone layer, now stood at 1.1 million tonnes.
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.
1984, The pesticide DDT was banned in Britain.
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.
12/8/1980, The first Giant Panda born in captivity was successfully delivered at a zoo in Mexico.
3/1/1980, British naturalist Joy Adamson, author of the book Born Free, was murdered in a Kenyan game park.
1979, An international convention limiting seal huntiing in Antarctica was agreed.
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.
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. Production of these chemicals had been negligible before 1940 but by 1974 over 700,000 tons of them were reaching the atmosphere annually.
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.
29/6/1973, President Nixon warned US Congress that the US, with just 6% of the world population, consumed one third of the world’s energy supply, and that energy supplies were not infinite.
1972, Blueprint for Survival was published by the editors of The Ecologist magazine.
1972, The USA restricted the use of the weedkiller DDT after it was found to cause thinning of bird’s egg shells, reducing their reproductive success.
1972, The Club of Rome published ‘The Limits to Growth’, highlighting the dangers of natural resource depletion.
1972, The USA passed the Clean water Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments. This followed spectacular incidents in 1969 when the Cuyahoga River, Ohio, caught fire, and in the same year a record fish die off of 26 million fish was recorded in Florida’s Lake Thomnotosassa, blamed on pollution from food processing plants.
28/10/1972, The USA signed the Federal Noise Control Act, limiting noise emissions by trucks, buses, trains and construction equipment.
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.
27/9/1962, Rachel Carson published ‘Silent Spring’. She was very concerned about the issue of pesticides in the environment. By December, half a million copies had been printed, and even US President John F Kennedy was influenced.
1958, US scientist Charles Keeling measured atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa observatory, Hawaii. He found it to be 317 parts per million (ppm), noticeably higher than the pre-industrial level of 280 ppm (known from ancient air trapped in polar ice). There was seasonal cyclicity with levels declining during the Northern hemisphere Summer then rising in Autumn, but with s distinct upwards trend over the decades, the Keeling Curve. In Spring 2020 levels had reached 414 ppm, but the covid19 oiutbreak had reduced levels very slightly, as most travel and much industry shut down..
1958, A plague of locusts in Somalia was so large it covered 1,000 square kilometres.
1956, In the UK, the Clean Air Act gave industry seven years to stop emitting ‘dark smoke’. This was in the aftermath of the infamous London Smog, which kicked 4,000 people.
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, Manchester first proposed the idea of smokeless zones in urban areas.
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.
16/5/1931, Paul Brodeur, science writer, was born in the USA. He wrote about environmental hazards including asbestos, household chemicals and the danger to the ozone layer.
1930, CFCs (chloro-fluoro-carbons) were invented by Thomas Midgley.
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.
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.
1896, Denver Zoo was established in City Park, for the purpose of displaying only indigenous Colorado wildlife. In 1898 it acquired a herd of buffalo, a few months before the last wild herd in the State was killed.
1895, Arrhenius gave a paper to the Stockholm Physical Society propounding his theory of man-made global warming due to carbon dioxide.
1895, The rescue from extinction of the African Southern White Rhinocerous began. Until now they had been hunted almost to extinction until, this year, the South African Government set up a game reserve, now known as the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park, to maintain the species, of which just 40 were left. By the 1960s private landowners were also setting up reserves where the species could be preserved, for paying game shooters. The fee for the hunters was, 2009, US$ 40,000, making the species commercially-valuable.
1895, The buffalo, which had once numbered millions across America, was now down to just 400 in the entire USA.
7/9/1880, In Britain, the Wild Birds’ Protection Act was passed.
1874, The first zoo in the USA was established, at Philadelphia.
1866, Hackel coined the term ecology (oecologie in German)
1/1/1864, In the US, the Alkali Act was passed. It was the first legislation of modern times concerning the environment. The Leblanc process of producing sodium carbonate released large amounts of hydrochloric acid into the atmosphere.
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.
1841, Berlin zoo opened.
1840, Kew Botanical Gardens, London, opened.
11/7/1836, Bristol Zoo opened.
8/5/1820. The United States Botanic Garden was established in Washington, DC.
31/7/1752. The oldest zoo in Europe opened, in Vienna.
4/9/1733, The first lioness to be kept in Britain died of old age.
26/6/1545. A botanical garden was established in Padua. This, or the garden in Pisa, is the oldest such garden in Europe.
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.
1975 BCE, The world’s first zoo was established; the Park of Intelligence, in China.
Appendix 1 – Extinctions
17/6/1987, The Dusky Seaside Sparrow became extinct as the last individual died.
1944, The last ivory-billed woodpecker died when its last habitat, a wood in Louisiana,USA, was felled by the Chicago Mill and Lumber Company.
1934, The last thylacine (Tasmanian marsupial tiger) died
1933, The last known Tasmanian Wolf died in a zoo; however there were later unverified reports of this animal in the wild.
1918, Death of the last California Parakeet, in captivity, The last confirmed sighting in the wild was in 1914, though there were alleged sightings for some decades afterwards.
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.
12/8/1883, The last quagga (a sub-species of the zebra) died, at Amsterdam Zoo.
1875, Last sighting of the Falkland Islands wolf.
3/7/1844, The Great Auk became extinct when fishermen killed the last breeding pair of the flightless birds in Iceland.
1786, The last wolf was killed in Ireland, by John Watson of Ballydarton, Leighlinbridge, a master of foxhounds.
1768, Steller’s Sea Cow was hunted to extinction, just 27 years after the species after the species was discovered on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
1743, The last wolf was killed in Scotland.
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.
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.
Appendix 2 – Whaling
1/7/2019, Japan recommenced commercial whaling, having withdrawn from the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
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.
1994, A whale sanctuary was established in the Antarctic.
1/1/1986, The International Whaling Commission (IWC) placed a moratorium on commercial whaling. However some nations, including Norway, Iceland and Japan, continued to hunt whales under the guise of ‘scintific research’ which was permitted by the IWC. However the ban had had a beneficial effect. In 1900, before commercial whaling took off, there were 200,000 blue whales worldwide. They were hunted for their ,massive oil content; 30,000 were killed in 1931 alone. Their population plummeted to just 1,500 in the 1960s. Since the IWC ban, they have recovered to a population of around 4,500 in 2005.
1985, Norway agreed to suspend commercial whaling. However it later allowed fishing for Minke Whale, and the export of whale products.
23/7/1982, The International Whaling Commission decided to end whaling by 1986.
1966, Hunting for humpback whales was banned globally. Their slow speed made them easy to catch and it was estimated that 95%-99% of southern-hemisphere humpback whales had been killed for blubber and meat. The killing of humpbacks finally ceased in 1973 when the USSR suspended its illegal slaughtering. They are now no longer a threatened species, and attract tourists in the oceans off Australia.
1946, The International Whaling Commission was established by the Washington Convention. Its aim was to ration out allowed whale catches amongst whaling nations, to try and preserve the industry.
6/9/1902, Whale hunt in the Shetlands. 166 were caught.
Appendix a - 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)
1973, 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. In 1983 it had 1,500,000 members. By 1991 it had 6,750,000 members.
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. In 1983 it had 100,000 members. By 1991 it had 1,000,000 members.
1926, In Britain, the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) was set up by Patrick Abercrombie.
1922, In London, UK,the International Council for Bird Preservation (ICBP) was founded.
1919, The Save The Redwoods League was formed in the USA. It helped create national parks in California where the huge tress wouldnot be felled by loggers.
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.
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.
1889, The Society for the Protection of Birds was set up. It gained a Royal Charter in 1904,