User:Alan Liefting/Timeline of anthropogenic environmental events

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This timeline of anthropogenic environmental events is a chronological account of notable events affecting the natural environment that are due to human activities or publications documenting these events.

For related timelines see:


6th millennium BC[edit]

  • 5600 BC — Beginning of the desertification of North Africa, which ultimately lead to the creation of the Sahara desert. It's possible this process pushed some natives into migrating to the region of the Nile in the east, thereby laying the groundwork for the rise of Egyptian civilization.

3rd millennium BC[edit]

  • 2700 BCSumerian epic of Gilgamesh describes vast tracts of cedar forests in what is now southern Iraq. Gilgamesh defies the gods and cuts down the forest, and in return the gods say they will curse Sumer with fire (or possibly drought). By 2100 BC, soil erosion and salt buildup have devastated agriculture. One Sumerian wrote that the "earth turned white." Civilization moved north to Babylonia and Assyria. Again, deforestation becomes a factor in the rise and subsequent fall of these civilizations.
— Some of the first laws protecting the remaining forests decreed in Ur.

2nd millennium BC[edit]

  • 1500 BCSoil erosion is both a consequence of growth and a cause of collapse of Central American city-states.
  • 1450 BCMinoan civilization in the Mediterranean declines, but scholars are divided on the cause. Possibly a volcanic eruption was the source of the catastrophe. On the other hand, gradual deforestation may have led to materials shortages in manufacturing and shipping. Loss of timber and subsequent deterioration of its land was probably a factor in the decline of Minoan power in the late Bronze Age, according to John Perlin in A Forest Journey.

1st millennium BC[edit]

  • 500 BCRoman Empire, Cloaca Maxima (big sewer) is built in Rome by Etruscan dynasty of Tarquins. As Rome grows, a network of cloacae (sewers) and aqueducts are built.
— siltation on the Greek coastine.

1st century[edit]

  • 100AD to 400AD — Decline of Roman Empire may have been partly due to lead poisoning, according to modern historian and toxicologist Jerome Nriagu. Romans used lead acetate ("sugar of lead") to sweeten old wine and turn grape pulp into a sweet condiment. Usually the acidic wine or pulp was simply left in a vat with sheets of lead. An aristocrat with a sweet tooth might have eaten as much as a gram of lead a day. Widespread use of this sweetener would have caused gout, sterility, insanity and many of the symptoms which were, in fact, present among the Roman aristocrats. High levels of lead have been found in the bones of aristocratic Romans. Far more than simply using lead pipes or lead utensils, the direct consumption of lead-sweetened wine and foods created serious and widespread lead poisoning among upper-class Romans.

7th century[edit]

14th century[edit]

  • 1306Edward I of England forbids the burning of coal in London while Parliament is in session.
  • 1347 to 1350sBubonic plague decimates Europe, creating the first attempts to enforce public health and quarantine laws.
  • 1366 — City of Paris forces butchers to dispose of animal wastes outside the city (Ponting); similar laws would be disputed in Philadelphia and New York nearly 400 years later.
  • 1388Parliament passes an act forbidding the throwing of filth and garbage into ditches, rivers and waters. City of Cambridge also passes the first urban sanitary laws in England.

15th century[edit]

  • 1420 to 1427, Madeira islands : destruction of the laurisilva forest, or the woods which once clothed the whole island when the portuguese settlers decided to clear the land for farming by setting most of the island on fire. It is said that the fire burned for seven years.

16th century[edit]

17th century[edit]

  • 1640Isaac Walton writes The Compleat Angler about fishing and conservation.
  • 1666Japan's shogun warns against the dangers of deforestation and urges the planting of trees. (Diamond)
  • 1690 — Colonial Governor William Penn requires Pennsylvania settlers to preserve one acre of trees for every five acres cleared.

18th century[edit]

19th century[edit]

— US 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 Zeider discovers chemical formula for the insecticide DDT.

20th century[edit]

— 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.
— 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.
World Meteorological Organization (WMO) established by the United Nations.
Fish and Wildlife Act.
  • 1960 — 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.
  • 1961-1971 — The US Army uses Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
World population reached 3 billion[1].
Rachel Carson, (1907 - 1964), wrote Silent Spring.
Water Resources Research Act.
Fur Seal Act.
— Endangered Species Preservation Act, see Endangered Species Act of 1973
Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
— 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 [2].
  • 1970Earth Day, millions of people gather in the United States for the first Earth day organized by Gaylord Nelson, former senator of Wisconsin, and Denis Hayes, Harvard graduate student.
EPA, US Environmental Protection Agency formed by President Nixon.
Clean Air Act.
— Resource Recovery Act, see RCRA 1976
Francis A. Schaeffer publishes Pollution and the Death of Man
Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act.
Noise Control Act
Clean Water Act.
Ocean Dumping Act.
Coastal Zone Management Act.
National Reserves Management Act.
World population reached 4 billion[1].
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act.
Hans Jonas write The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of Ethics for the Technological Age
Emergency Wetlands Resources Act.
Tetra-ethyl lead phase-out was completed in the US.
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".
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).
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 in 1990, and served as the basis of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
  • 1991 — World's worst oil spill occurs in Kuwait during war with Iraq.
Global Environment Facility (GEF) was established by donor governments.
— The New Zealand Resource Management Act is passed.
World Ocean Day began on 8 June at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
  • 1996Western Shield, a wildlife conservation project is started in Western Australia, and through successful work has taken several species off of the state, national, and internation (IUCN) Endangered Species Lists..
  • 1997
— July, U.S. Senate unanimously passed by a 95–0 vote the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, which stated that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations.
— 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[edit]

— The Kyoto Protocol came into force on February 16 following ratification by Russia on November 18, 2004.
— 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".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "United Nations Population Fund moves Day of 6 Billion based on new population estimates". Population Connection. 1998-10-28. Retrieved 2006-03-11. 
  2. ^ "Environmental movement" article in the French Encyclopedia Universalis
  • Diamond, J. Collapse...

External links[edit]

Category:Environment Environmental events