The 21st Century
A new millenium begins with the most pressing question imaginable: Can humankind rally to save the planet -- and itself?
2000 -- Jan 1 -- European Union bans leaded gasoline as a public health hazard.
2000 -- Jan 30 -- Aurul goldmine dam near Baia Mare, Romania overflows releasing cyanide-laced slurry into the Danube River. The spill is been compared to the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986 and a cyanide spill in southern Colorado in 1992. Alexandru Savulescu, "Romanian Gold Mine Reopens Despite Cyanide Disaster Fears" (ENS, July 28, 2000)
2000 -- April -- Earth Day Network remembers 30th anniversary of the original Earth Day.
2000 -- May 15 -- Walterton, Ontario -- Residents of this small town simultaneously experience serious symptoms of E. coli infection. The Walkerton Public Utilities Commission insists that there are no problems with the water, even though they have lab tests confirming contamination. Seven people die and 2,500 -- about half the town -- becomes ill. Finally, after regional medical officials step in, the extent of the problem is uncovered. Two untrained city water sytstem managers are briefly jailed in the aftermath of the Walkerton tragedy.
2000 -- May 20 -- Bruno Manser, a Swiss artist working with the Penan people in Sarawak, Malaysia trying to protect rainforests, disappears. The repressive Malaysian government had long seen Manser as a troublemaker. "My own purpose in going to Sarawak," Manser said, "was never to go there as an environmentalist, or make politics. I wanted to experience for myself how an indigenous people lived outside the money economy. But somehow it became a question of humanity--to help the indigenous people whose pleas fell on deaf ears from the companies and the government." The Penan people are perhaps the last nomadic tribe in southeast Asia. They sheltered Manser and taught him how to live and survive in the rain forest. In turn, Manser helped organize Sabat Alam Malaysia. Many belive Mansur was killed by logging operators. He was declared legally dead in 2005.
2000 -- August -- Rain forest logging banned in New Zealand following a 30 year campaign by environmental groups.
2000 -- August 18 -- A Florida state civil court convicts a Fox Television affiliate under "whistelblower" statutes for deliberately distorting the reporting of journalists Jane Akre and Steve Wilson about Bovine Growth Hormone, a chemical found in most milk. The TV network had allegedly caved in to pressure from Monsanto Chemical to spike news reports about health and environmental concerns with BGH. Akre and Wilson were awarded the Goldman Prize in 2001. Their fight is described at their Web site FoxBGHsuit.
2000 -- October 11 -- One of the most serious US environmental disasters east of the Mississippi River (until 2008 and the TVA ash disaster). Over 300 million gallons of thick, black coal slurry sludge is released whan a Massey Energy Co. impoundment dam collapses near Inez (Martin County), Kentucky into the Big Sandy River’s Tug Fork and its tributaries. The spill destroyed 100 miles of streams and killed millions of fish. (See Kentuckians for the Commonwealth site for photos). Massey reported spending about $77.9 million on cleanup (almost all of which was repaid by insurance companies). Massey paid $3.25 million in fines to the state of Kentucky and other Massey subsidiaries, Omar Mining and Independence Coal, paid $400,000 in fines after pleading guilty to criminal Clean Water Act violations, National Mine Health and Safety Academy engineer Jack Sparado investigated the spill and found that Massey Energy officials knew about a 1994 spill from the same impoundment and that they had misrepresented facts about the structure of the impoundment dam foundation. But the investigation was cut off and, when Sparado went public, he was fired.
"The Bush Administration came in and the scope of our investigation was considerably shortened. I had never seen something so corrupt and lawless in my entire career as what I saw regarding interference with a federal investigation of the most serious environmental disaster in the history of the Eastern United States." --Jack Sparado, quoted in A Toxic Cover-Up by CBS News
During Sparado's investigation there was a regime change at the White House. And it became clear that George W. Bush and his coal cronies were just as concernced about the Inez disaster for very different reasons.... The new Bush team at the Dept. of Labor included Secretary Elaine Chao ... the wife on Sen. Mitgch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate's largest recipient of coal industry largesse. As the investigation moved forward, Massey Energy contributed $100,000 to a Republican Senate campaign committee controlled by McConnell. Chao appointed Dave Laurinski, a former executive with Energy West Mining, to be director of the Mine Safety and Health Administration., Laurinski's deputy assistant secretary was John Caylor, an alumnus of Amax Mining; his other deputy assistant, John Cornell, has worked for both Amex and Peabody Coal. Together this group wasted no time in putting the brakes on the ivestigation. Tony Oppegard, Spadaro's boss, whom the team regarded as a strong leader with unquestioned ingetegrity, was fired on the day of Bush's inauguration. "He was getting down to the root of what was going on," Sparado says. "He was simply fired. The people at Massey knew before he did." -- From Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country, Harper Collins, 2004, p 122.
2000 -- November -- World Dam Commission, an independent organization with a variety of stakeholders, reports on alternatives to massive hydroelectric dam projects.
2001 -- January 20 -- Bill Clinton leaves the presidency after protecting 58 million acres of national forest protected from development and creating eight million acres of land as new national monuments. Clinton's conservation record is better than any president sicne Theodore Roosevelt, whose 230 million acres of land in parks, wilderness, national forests, and wildlife preserves remains unequalled.
2001 --National Science Foundation report on Global warming supports previous warnings by scientists
2001 -- March 23 -- David McTaggart, one of the founders of Greenpeace, died in an auto accident in Italy. .
2001 -- May 10 -- The George W. Bush energy plan emphasizes oil exploration and new construction of coal and nuclear power plants. Conservation and renewables are also mentioned more or less in passing -- funding cuts for research are requested. The Wilderness Society says the plan is a half century out of date.
2001 -- May 25 -- Gilbert Grosvenor, chairman of the National Geographic Society and former editor of National Geographic magazine, is elected to yet another term on the Board of Directors of the Ethyl Corp., manufacturers of dangerous lead additives for gasoline. Meanwhile, the worldwide public health campaign against use of leaded gasoline continues. By 2004 Grosvenor will retire from the board.
2001 -- June 14 -- European leaders scold US President George W. Bush in a European tour for his stand on the Kyoto global warming treaty.
2001 -- June 9 -- Science magazine publishes NASAsatellite survey of over 2,000 glaciers showing that most of are shrinking. Many thousands of NASA images from the Terra spacecraft are compared with aerial photos over the decades. Most glaciers shrank Ôby hundreds of metres, some by several kilometresÕ.
2001 -- July 22 -- G8 Summit in Genoa, Italy sees massive protests over the lack of environmental and labor standards in the push for international free trade. One protester is killed by police, others are beaten and detained under harsh conditions.
2001 -- Summer -- Protests in China concerning the Three Gorges Dam increase as a massive relocation of over one million people begins. "Credible accounts are emerging of protests involving thousands of people," said the London Independent (June 19). "The authorities are reported to react with violence and intimidation to these protests, and to subdue residents who are unwilling to leave. Local anger appears to be galvanising the migrants into organised action. Dozens of petitioners have already travelled to Beijing to entreat the central government's help." Many of them have been jailed. Meanwhile, nearly 300 Chinese officials have been disciplined or jailed for corruption in dealing with the relocation effort.
2001 -- July 6 -- Environmental Working Group reports thatsources of drinking water for more than 7 million Californians and millions of others are contaminated with Perchlorate, a chemical that disrupts child development and may cause thyroid cancer.
2001 -- July 19 -- Convictions of Mexican environmental activists Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera on arms and drug possession charges is upheld by an appeals court despite evidence that their confessions were obtained under torture. Montiel has been recognizedfor efforts to preserve tropical rain forests in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico's west coast with a 1999 Goldman Prize in 1999 and the Sierra Club Chico Mendez Prize. The environmental issue is that between 1994 and 2000, more than a third of the 560,000 acres of forest in the Costa Chica region of Guerrero state was cut down, according to a satellite imaging study by the environmental group Greenpeace. Mexican environmentalists says corrupt local politicians cut deals with timber companies to allow illegal logging.
2001 -- Sept. 11 -- World Trade Center,Pentagon and Flight 93. 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 according to a study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 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. Only 48 percent of those who had serious WTC coughs have improved enough to return to full-time work, CDC said.
2001 -- Nov. 8 -- Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera freed by order of President Vincente Fox after their attorney, Digna Ochoa was shot to death in her Mexico city office Oct. 19.
2001 -- December 12 -- US National Research Council suggests that climate change may arrive very quickly, wreaking sudden and catastrophic damage on people, property, and natural ecosystems. The report was titled, "Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises."
2001 -- December 14 -- The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has inscribed six new natural sites on the prestigious World Heritage List and has added extensions to three others during its annual meeting here in Helsinki. These include a mountain range in Russia (home of the rare Amur tiger), Great Britain's Dorset and East Devon Coast, Brazil's Cerrado region and Atlantic Islands, . the Alejandro de Humbolt National Park in Cuba, and the Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn in the Swiss Alps.
2001 -- World Meteorological Organization says the year 2001 is projected to be the second warmest on record. The warmest year since records began in 1860 occurred in 1998, according to records maintained by member countries. Nine of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 1990, including 1999 and 2000, when the cooling influence of the tropical Pacific La Niña weather pattern contributed to a somewhat lower global average temperature.
2002 -- January -- Survey of satellite images finds that Mexico lost almost 3 million acres of forest and jungle each year between 1993 and 2000 - nearly twice what officials had previously estimated. The Montes Azules Biosphere and the Lacandon rain forest in the state of Chiapas are in most critical danger.
2002 -- January -- Scientists at the University of California confirm that an algae-like organism has infected oaks, redwoods and Douglas firs in California. The organism is related to the species responsible for Ireland's potato famine of the mid-1800s.
2002 -- January 29, 2002 -- The German government announced plans for a massive increase in wind generation capacity over the next 25 years. The move, according to environment minister Jürgen Trittin, would put energy supply and sustainable footing and reduce national carbon dioxide emissions by 10 percent from 1998 levels. The wind energy strategy agreed today foresees offshore wind parks in the Baltic and the North Sea growing in stages to achieve 25,000 megawatts of installed capacity by 2030.
2002 -- February 25 - A jury in Anniston, Alabama ruled that Monsanto Chemical company was responsible for polluting the town with tons of toxic PCBs. The jury decided to hold Monsanto and the company that now represents its chemical division liable on six counts: negligence, nuisance, suppression of the truth, trespass, wantonness and outrage.In Alabama, the claim of outrage - a count almost never claimed or won - requires that the plaintiffs prove conduct "so outrageous in character and extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency so as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in civilized society." More information is at the Chemical Industry Archives.
2002 -- February 11 -- Jean-Michel Cousteau, ocean explorer, environmentalist, educator, and film producer, symbolizes the the environment at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Cousteau was one of eight people to carry the Olympic Flag during the Opening Ceremonies into the stadium in Salt Lake City. The eight participating dignitaries, who represent the five continents symbolized in the Olympic Rings and the three tenets of the Olympics, included Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Africa), John Glenn (The Americas), Kazuyoshi Funaki (Asia), Lech Walesa (Europe), Cathy Freeman (Oceania), Jean-Claude Killy (Sport), Steven Spielberg (Culture), and Jean-Michel Cousteau (Environment). Note: Jean-Michel Cousteau is the son of Jacques Cousteau but is not the head of the Virginia-based Cousteau Society.
2002 - The U.S. wind energy industry wins passage of an extended production tax credit for electricity generated by wind power.
2002 -- August, September -- World Summit on Sustainable Development (also known as Rio + 10), gathers in Johannesburg, South Africa. Part of a progression of world summits on the environment which began in 1972 with the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm and continued with the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Many were unhappy with the outcome. Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said the summit had turned out to be a 10-day "dialogue of the deaf." Environmentalists like Ricardo Navarro, chairman of Friends of the Earth International, said: "We should never have such shameful summits again. We feel anger and despair because world leaders have sold out to the World Trade Organization and big business. They have done nothing for the poor." While acknowledging that the summit accomplished few concrete results, many others felt that any dialogue is better than none at all. South African President Thabo Mbeki and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said expectations had been high and that a workmanlike set of agreements had been achieved. The summit did set a goal of cutting in half by 2015 the 2.4 billion people without sanitation in the Third World. It also led to an agreement to minimize harmful effects from chemicals production by 2020 and halt the decline in fish stocks by 2015. Still, the goals will require incresing aid from industrial nations, currently at about US$54 billion a year.
Sept. 20 -- Kolka glacier in the Cacusus mountains of southern Russia collapses, killing 300.
2003 -- Bush Administration compiles the most anti-environmental record of any US president in history. Under fire by Bush and Congressional Republicans are the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the toxic waste Superfund, the Right to Know Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and many more. See the NRDC web site on the Bush record. Also see the Mother Jones series on the Bush environmental record.
2003, Jan 29 -- Bush administration wins a court victory on mountaintop removal mining. Environmental groups had challenged permits for coal mining operations for mountaintop removal, saying they violated the Clean Water Act. The law allows companies dynamite huge slabs of mountains and then dump the "spoil" -- tons of rock and dirt -- into valleys and streams. The practice saves money, but environmental and citizens groups stopped it with a lawsuit in May of 2003. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, however, ruled in favor of the companies. About 20 new permit applications were pending in West Virginia and Kentucky just after the Bush victory.
2003. Feb. -- Bush administration proposes "Clear Skies" legislation to Congress amending the Clean Air Act (the primary federal law governing air quality). New, weaker targets would be set for emissions of sulfur dioxide, mercury, and nitrogen oxides from U.S. power plants. According to the NRDC, "the Clear Skies plan would allow three times more toxic mercury emissions, 50 percent more sulfur emissions, and hundreds of thousands more tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides. It would also delay cleaning up this pollution by up to a decade compared to current law and force residents of heavily-polluted areas to wait years longer for clean air compared to the existing Clean Air Act."
2003 -- Senate rolls back New Source Review An attempt by Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) to postpone a rollback of the New Source Review rules is defeated in the Senate (46-50) during amendment votes on the 2003 budget bill; a competing amendment by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) wins (51-46), clearing the way for the Clean Air Act rollback.
2003 -- March 21 -- Invasion of Iraq by US and British forces leads to widespread oilfield burning and other war-related environmental problems.
2003 -- June -- Energy bill introduced in Congress would include ethanol mandates, nuclear power plant construction, liability exemptions for MTBE users, electrical reliability measures and other items.
2003 -- August 14 -- Electric power failure affects 50 million people from New York to Ontario. A US-Canadian task force report in the incident issued in April, 2004 put the blame on FirstEnergy Corp., a northern Ohio electricity transmitter, which did not properly identify conditions that led to the overload of its system and take the necessary diagnostic steps. But FirstEnergy says "Our transmission system was designed and built to provide reliable service to our customers, not to be a superhighway for long-distance transactions to Canada and elsewhere."
2003 -- Aug. 28 -- EPA rejects petition from environmental groups to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, saying it did not have the authority under the Clean Air Act -- an assertion that contradicted the agency's position under the Clinton administration. , when its officials testified before Congress that it had the necessary authority. The petition was brought by Greenpeace, the International Center for Technology Assessment, the Sierra Club, other environmental groups and previous EPA general counsels. The peition argued that the Clean Air Act directed the agency to regulate pollutants that constituted a threat to human welfare, and pointed out that climate stability is part of that welfare. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and other industry groups supported the EPA decision.
2003 -- Oct 11 -- Hunting endangered species -- The Bush administration proposes changes to conservation laws that would allow hunters, circuses and the pet industry to kill, capture and import animals from other countries that are on the brink of extinction.
2003 -- "Black October" massacre -- At least 67 people are killed and 400 injured during protests over natural gas development in La Paz, Bolivia, according to Amnesty International. In 2011, five military officers received prison sentences ranging from 10 to 15 years, while the two former ministers were sentenced to three years.
2003, Dec. 11 -- Crimes Against Nature by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (for Rolling Stone magazine) -- "George W. Bush will go down in history as America's worst environmental president. In a ferocious three-year attack, the Bush administration has initiated more than 200 major rollbacks of America's environmental laws, weakening the protection of our country's air, water, public lands and wildlife. Cloaked in meticulously crafted language designed to deceive the public, the administration intends to eliminate the nation's most important environmental laws by the end of the year..."
2003, Dec. 25 -- Twelve Eastern states win federal court injunction preventing Bush Administration from weaking clean air laws. State officials say that pollutants from electric power plants refineries and other Midwestern facilities are major contributors to poor air quality and threaten the Chesapeake Bay.
2004, Feb. -- A climate change report comissioned by the Pentagon sparks European concern when it discusses possible future cataclysms. The London Observer headlines say: "Now the Pentagon Tells Bush: Climate Change Will Destroy Us," and: "Secret report warns of rioting and nuclear war" and "Britain will be 'Siberian' in less than 20 years." The authors of the report, Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall of Global Business Network, say that their analysis reflects only a few worst-case scenarios.
"After roughly 60 years of slow freshening, the thermohaline collapse begins in 2010, disrupting the temperate climate of Europe, which is made possible by the warm flows of the Gulf Stream (the North Atlantic arm of the global thermohaline conveyor). Ocean circulation patterns change, bringing less warm water north and causing an immediate shift in the weather in Northern Europe and eastern North America... By the end of the decade (2010-2020), Europes climate is more like Siberia."
2004, March -- Environmentalists object when Yellowstone Park Rangers kill over 200 buffalo roaming near the parks edges. The buffalo are thought to be carrying the bovine disease brucellosis and the killings are designed to prevent the spread of disease to nearby cattle ranches.
2004, Aug. 17 -- As the election heats up, the New York Times and Washington Post reach a moment of clarity and realize they have not been covering the politics of environmental regulation. See "Bush Rules" by Howie Kurtz.
2004 -- September 9 -- Scientists publish a study showing that air pollution damages the lungs of Southern California children in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study examined children who were subjected to higher levels of air pollution and found that they developed underperforming lungs at a higher rate than children in lower-pollution areas.
2004 -- Oct. 6 -- Forest Service regulations preserving viable populations of wildlife in national forests is relaxed to allow the "best available science" rather than new population counts when evaluating road-building, logging or other forest proposals. The change is part of a campaign to give timber companys more access to national forests.
2004 -- Oct. 8 -- Kenyan environmentalist and human rights campaigner Wangari Maathai wins the Nobel Peace Prize. She is the first African woman to be awarded the peace prize since it was created in 1901. The prize committee says Mrs Maathai, Kenya's Deputy Environment Minister, is an example for all Africans fighting for democracy and peace. Mrs Maathai is best known for a campaign called the Green Belt Movement that began in the 1970s and planted tens of millions of trees across Africa to slow deforestation. The movement grew to include projects to preserve biodiversity, educate people about their environment and promote the rights of women and girls.
"Some people have asked what the relationship is between peace and environment, and to them I say that many wars are fought over resources, which are becoming increasingly scarce across the earth. If we did a better job of managing our resources sustainably, conflict over them would be reduced. So, protecting the global environment is directly related to securing peace... Many people have asked me through the years of struggle how I have kept going, how I have continued even when my ideas and my work were challenged or even ignored. Those of us who understand the complex concept of the environment have the burden to act. We must not tire, we must not give up, we must persist." --Wangari Maathai, The Green Belt Movement (Lantern Books)
2004 - Nov. 5 -- Russia ratifies Kyoto treating, putting it into effect worldwide even without US approval.
2004 - Nov. 8 -- Rapid climate change is occurring in the Arctic, according to 300 scientists who worked for four years on the international Arctic Council. The scientists concluded that sea ice in the Arctic covered 10% less surface area than it had 30 years earlier, and was only about half as thick as it had been then. Rapid melting of sea ice threatens many species and the traditional way of life of indigenous Arctic populations, but it might open a waterway through the Arctic sea and ease access to the world's untapped oil and gas reserves.
2004 -- December 7 -- Automakers file suit against California to stop a greenhouse gas emissions law that requires better fuel economy. Automakers filing the suit are: Ford, GM, Chrysler, BMW, Porsche, Volkswagen, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Toyota.
Dec. 26 -- An 8.9 magnitude quake deep under the Indian Ocean triggers massive tsunamis that kill over 230,000 people in 14 nations.
Feb 12 -- Brazil -- Dorothy Stang assassinated. The American-born, Brazilian sister of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur was murdered in Anapu, a city in the state of Pará, in the Amazon Basin. She was a fearless crusader working for the poor and trying to preserve the rain forests. In 2010, two Brazilian ranchers were sentenced to long jail terms for ordering her death.
Feb. 16 -- Kyoto - With a majority of the world's nations ratifying, the Kyoto Protocol officially goes into force Feb. 16 -- without the U.S. See the UN pages. Meanwhile, the US debate simmers with conservatives pushing minority skeptics onto a confused public. See Environmental Science and Technology wrap-up Aug. 31 2005. Countries signing the treaty agree to cut back emissions of heat-trapping gases to levels 5.2% below their 1990 emissions levels, using a target date of 2012.
March -- US Congress votes to open the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, but the vote snags in late November as the public opinion turns against the Bush Administration's environment and energy polices.
April 2005 – Shell Oil fined £900,000 for safety failings on the Brent Bravo platform that led to the deaths of two workers killed by escaping natural gas.
May 2 -- Canada -- Bob Hunter, one of the founders of Greenpeace, dies in Toronto.
June 5 -- World environment day held in San Francisco, the first time the event has been held in the U.S. in 30 years.
July 6, - The European Parliament imposes a permanent ban on six chemicals known as "phthalates" used in plastic toys and childcare articles to soften the plastic because of their carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic effects.
August 29 -- Louisiana -- 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." In other words, environmental review improved the levee design.
Nov. 13 -- China - An explosion in a Jilin Petrochemical Co. refinery leads to the release of 100 tons of toxic chemicals (esp. benzene and nitrobenezne) into the Songhua River. The blast kills five workers and injures 70 more. The toxic plume of chemicals in the river shut down drinking water supplies for millions of people in China and Russia. Officials try to keep the release secret at first, but this only arouses more protest as Chinese people begin to come to grips with the widespread water pollution and serious problems in the enforcement of anti-pollution and industrial safety laws.
December 2005 -- Argentina -- Plans for massive new paper mills spark protests in Gualeguaychu and the occupation of bridges to Uruguay. The mills were being built by Finland's Metsae-Botnia Oy and Spain's Grupo Empresarial Ence SA. The mills are being built by Finland's Metsae-Botnia Oy and Spain's Grupo Empresarial Ence SA.
Jan 23-- New Zealand, Sweden, Finland, the Czech Republic and Britain lead the world in a study of 133 countries on the 2006 Environmental Performance Index. The U.S., which ranked 28th, met 78.5% of the study's environmental goals, placing almost 10 percentage points behind New Zealand's 88% score. The study evaluated the countries based on 16 indicators that fit into one of six categories: sustainable energy, environmental health, water resources, air quality, biodiversity and habitat, and productive natural resources. The researchers said the U.S.'s ranking was lowered by its unsustainable agricultural practices, excessive release of greenhouse gases and poor water management.
Jan 26 -- Oregon US - Indictments handed down for 11 people on charges that they had committed various acts of arson and destruction of property described by federal officials as "ecoterrorism." Earth Liberation Front (ELF) or the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) had claimed responsibility for attacks between 1996 and 2006 on an electricity transmission tower, the office of a wood products company, a ski resort and a meat-packing plant in five Western states causing an estimated $23 million in damage. More ELF arrests take place in May.
February 7 -- Five million acres of rain forest on the west coast of Canada, the Great Bear Forest, is saved from logging, and another 10 million acres will be logged under strict protocols following an agreement between provincial and national governments in Canada and environmentalists.
Feb. 17 -- Greenland - The glaciers are melting twice as fast as previously estimated, according to a student in the journal Science by scientists with the U.S. National Aeronautic and Space Administration's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Kansas who examined satellite images of Greenland's ice sheets in 1996, 2000 and 2005. The researchers theorized that higher temperatures had created a layer of meltwater between the glaciers and the land on which they sat, in effect lubricating the ice sheets' movement and hastening their demise. Researchers at the University of Texas come to a similar if more alarming conclusion Aug 24, with melting at a rate of roughly 57 cubic miles (240 cu km) per year -- three times faster than the rate recorded over the previous five years.
March 14 - Indonesia -- University students and demonstrators with bows and arrows assault a US gold mining company's hotel in Timika. No one is injured that day, but it sets off a wave of protests that leaves three police officers and a soldier dead and dozens of police and protesters injured. Protesters are demanding a halt to the world's largest gold and copper mine, located in Papua and owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. of the U.S. Every day, the mine dumps 700,000 tons of mining waste on an area now covering 90 square miles of wetlands. Protests continue.
May -- Mongolia -- Parliament passes the Law on Minerals to regulate mining and protect precious waterways. The government also forces 35 of the 37 mining operations working in the Onggi River Basin to stop destructive operations. Erel Mining Co.'s shut down on the Onggi River is a particular victory. Goldman prize winner Tsetsegee Munkhbayar is a major organizer of the environmental reform movements.
April 28 -- Zanzibar - Some 600 dead bottlenose dolphins wash up on Zanzibar's northern tourist beaches. Scientists said the animals showed no signs of having been caught in fishing nets or other injuries and suggested they might have become confused by sonar from U.S. Navy ships which often patrol the region. The U.S. Navy denies responsibility.
May 2 - World Bank reports that the global market in carbon trading had grown to $30 billion in 2006, from $10 billion in 2005, with $25 billion involving the European Union's carbon trading scheme. \
June — Former U.S. vice president Al Gore releases An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary that describes global warming. The next year, Gore is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (jointly with the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) for this and related efforts
June 18 -- Whaling impasse -- International Whaling Commission (IWC) passes 33-32, with one abstention, a nonbinding resolution criticizing a 1986 whaling ban as unnecessary and responsible for the depletion of fish populations. But pro-whaling commission members don't have the 75% supermajority threshold needed to rescind the moratorium. The vote was viewed as a sign of the growing influence of the Japan-led pro-whaling contingent of the 70-member commission. Antiwhaling groups and countries claim Japan was promising smaller IWC member countries financial aid packages, but Japan denied the charge.
Aug 2 - India - Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), releases a report claiming that beverages made in India by U.S. soft-drink giants Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. contained, on average, 24 times the maximum level of four pesticides allowed under government standards. The southern state of Kerala bans the production and sale of the two companies' products. Six other Indian states had followed suit with partial or complete bans on the beverages.
August 3 -- The US EPA recommends new limits on the use of thousands of pesticides due to their ill effects on human health following a congressionally mandated 10-year review of more than 230 chemicals. The first to be banned is lindane, a toxic insecticide used for agricultural purposes.
August 13 Nigeria -- At least five foreign oil workers are kidnapped by gunmen in Port Harcourt, the center of the oil-rich Niger Delta. Tensions over oil have risen for years in Nigeria. Perhaps a dozen more are held hostage.
September 6 -- Toxic waste dumping in Ivory Coast kills 17, sickens 70,000 -- Seventeen people died and over 70,000 were sickened by toxic waste dumping by oil trading company Trafugura. Four people were convicted in the incident in 2010, and the company was fined, but many say this is just one incident in a massive scandal over illegal toxic waste dumping.
September 20 - Exxon Mobil Corp. must stop funding organizations that undermine science, the Royal Society, an independent British scientific academy, said in a letter to the US company. According to the Royal Society, in 2005 Exxon gave $2.9 million to 35 groups that had "misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence." The Royal Society said Exxon agreed.
September 26 -- Earth's overall temperature has reached its highest level in 12,000 years according to research by James Hansen of the U.S.'s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and others. Earth had been warming at a rate of 0.36° Fahrenheit (0.2° Celsius) per decade for the past 30 years, an acceleration from the previous century. Hansen warned that global warming of another two or three degrees Celsius would likely result in a dramatic rise in sea levels and the extinction of some species of plants and animals.
September 27 - California imposes a cap on greenhouse gas emessions, the first state in the US to do so. The bill, signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, has members of a government-appointed council developing draft emissions regulations by 2009.
October 25 -- Nigerian protesters seize three Shell Oil Co. rigs to dramatize concerns about incessant oil pipeline spills, leaking the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez every year. The World Conservation Union and others warn that the Niger Delta, one of the world's most important mangrove ecosystems, had become one of the five most polluted spots on earth.
October. 30 — The Stern Review -- a report on climate change -- is published. British Prime MinisterTony Blair says that it shows that scientific evidence of global warming was "overwhelming" and its consequences "disastrous".
November 3 -- CO2 is at 379.1 ppm, and NOx is at 319.2 ppm, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reports. The levels represent a steady two percent per year increase.
November 7 -- US elections put Democrats in control of both houses of Congress in an historic turnover reflected broad dissatisfaction with the Bush administration. Energy, environent and natural resource policies are among the areas where environmental protection is seen as needed.
November 9 - Boliva nationalizes seven foreign-owned oil and natural gas firms. Under the new contracts, the energy companies, which included Brazil's state-run Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) and Spain's Repsol YPF SA, would provide the government with 50%-82% of their revenue. President Evo Morales Aina in May had announced the seizure of foreign-run gas and oil fields, but Morales's success in obtaining cooperation for nationalization was a significant political victory.
Dec 13 - China - The Chinese river dolphin is functionally extinct, according to an international group of scientists who searched for the dophin, also called the baiji, for six weeks on the Yangtze River. The baiji--a nearly blind white dolphin species-- was thought to have inhabited the Yangtze for at least 20 million years. Researchers attributed the extinction to high levels of industrial and residential pollution as well as ships propellers that interfere with the dolphin's sonar,
December 15 -- Fisheries aren't a lost cause, according to an article in the journal Science. A U.S.-based Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission study challenges claims that current fishing practices would result in the global collapse of fish species.
Dec 31 - India -The Sardar Sarovar Dam is complete. The dam on the Narmada River in Gujarat state was started nearly 20 years earlier and had been the subject of considerable controversy and protest due to its potentially negative effects on the environment and displacement of residents. Adding to the conflict, India on March 8 decided to raise the height of the dam to 400 feet (122 m), from 363 feet. This meant resettlement of an additional 35,000 families.
World population reaches 6.5 billion
The year began with a fiery new Democratic Congress vowing in January to turn oil subsidies into renewable energy support; it ended with a glacial December standoff over renewable energy and oil subsidies in the US Senate. Highlights were Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize and the Bali climate meetings. Trends include Europe's deeper commitments to decreasing greenhouse gasses and running even with US in renewable energy technologies; growing awareness of environmental issues by religious organizations; and Arctic and Greenland ice melt accelerating.
Jan 10 -- European Union agrees to cut C02 emissions by 20% by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. Under the Kyoto protocol, the EU was already committed to an 8% decrease. The plan also called for biofuels to make up at least 10% of vehicle fuel by 2020.
Jan 18 - US -- New Democratic House of Representatives votes to repeal about $14 billion in tax breaks and subsidies for oil and gas companies, and put the savings in a fund for developing alternative energy sources. The bill is defeated in the Senate, where Democrats have only a one-vote majority.
Jan 30 - US -- Congress holds hearings on allegations that the Bush administration intentionally impeded the work of government scientists in order to play down the human impact on global climate change.
February 9 -- UK -- Billionaire businessman and philanthropist Richard Branson of Britain sets a $25 million prize for anyone able to devise a way to reduce the amount of so-called greenhouse gases from the Earth's atmosphere by one billion tons (900 million metric tons) per year.
February 9 - US EPA cuts level of carcinogenic benzene allowed in gasoline to 1.3% This will result in an 80% cut from 1999 toxic emissions levels by 2030, EPA said. The change in rules was the result of a 2004 lawsuit by the U.S. Public Interest Group and the Sierra Club. The groups were not happy with one part of the new regs that allow refineries to trade credits for air toxics.
February 26 -- Africa -- Ivory trade restrictions have collapsed, according to research presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Samuel Wasser, a conservation biologist at the University of Washington in the U.S. said African elephants were in greater danger of extinction than even before the 1989 ivory trade ban. Around 23,000 African elephants were killed in 2006, Wasser and researchers found.
February 28 -- Japanese whalers call off the ill fated and controversial annual whaling expedition after repeated ramming and clashes with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ships and an unrelated fire onboard the Nisshin Maru that killed one crewman. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said the fire could have been an environmental disaster for Antarctica if 343,000 gallons of fuel oil carried by the Nisshin Maru had been spilled.
April 2 -- US Supreme Court rules that states may regulate "greenhouse" gasses in Massachusetts v. EPA. The ruling is a blow to the Bush Administration.
April 6 - Climate change will most drastically affect poorer nations, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said as it released the second section of a multipart climate change report titled "Climate Change 2007: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability,"were compiled by hundreds of scientists and endorsed by more than 120 governments.
May 4 -- UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases the final portion of a multipart report that estimated the cost of reversing the emissions of greenhouse gases thought to cause climate change. Sabilizing the world's output of greenhouse gases by 2030 would add $100 to the cost of one ton of emitted carbon, the IPCC estimates, at a cost equal to 0.12% of the world's annual gross domestic product, and would reduce the projected growth in the world's economic output by less than 3% as of 2030.
May 26 -- South Pacific deep sea trawling in areas with endangered coral reef systems ended by treaty.
June 20 -- Renewable energy investment now tops $100 billion per year, according to the UN Environmental Program. "While renewable sources today produce about 2% of the world's energy, they now account for about 18% of world investment in power generation, with wind generation at the investment forefront. Solar and bio-fuel energy technologies grew even more quickly than wind, but from a smaller base."
July 7 -- Live Earth concerts by Madonna, the Black Eyed Peas, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Pharrell Williams and the Beastie Boys raise awareness of climate change. Concerts were held in London, Tokyo, Shanghai, Sydney, Johannesburg, Hamburg, Rio de Janeiro, and in the US, East Rutherford, New Jersey.
July 11 -- US -- Lady Bird Johnson (1912 - 2007) dies. Widow of Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president of the U.S., Lady Bird Johnson's behind-the-scenes efforts were instrumental in the passage of about 150 laws that directly benefited the environment; for her strenuous conservation efforts, she was awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and a Congressional Gold Medal in 1988.
Aug. 15 -- US -- John William Gofman, 88, nuclear chemist and medical researcher (1918 - 2007) In the late 1960s, Gofman and a colleague at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory sounded an alarm about the health effects of radiation from nuclear weapons and nuclear power. They called for federal safety guidelines for low-level exposure to be reduced by 90%. Their findings were disputed by the Atomic Energy Commission, and he was pushed out of government service. Gofman became an activist, helping found the Committee for Nuclear Responsibility, in 1971.
Aug. 24 -- US Interior Department's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement proposes easing environmental requirements for mountaintop removal mining. The proposals outraged many people in Appalachia, leading in part to the West Virginia Council of Churches statement against mountiantop removal mining.
September 20 -- Arctic sea ice is far smaller than ever before with a loss of a million square miles, a finding that "shatters previous records," according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Colorado.
Sept 27-28 - US president George W. Bush hosts his own conference on climate change in Washington, D.C., attended by mid-level representatives of 16 countries. The summit was intended to establish an alternative to talks led by the United Nations, but came to no conclusions and are clearly aimed at appearances rather than substance.
Oct 12 -- Al Gore and the IPCC win the Nobel Peace Prize. Gore and the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were both honored for "their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change."
Oct. 29 -- US Supreme Court agrees to hear an appeal of the fines levied on Exxon-Mobil Corp. for the 11 million gallon Exxon-Valdez oil spill of 1989. In 1994, a federal court in Alaska awarded 32,000 plaintiffs about $5 billion in punitive damages. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California, reduced the damages amount to $2.5 billion in 2006, but Exxon-Mobil still claimed the amount was excessive since they claimed to have spent $3.5 billion on cleanup.
Nov. 5 -- The murder of environmental journalists has become a very serious problem for the world, according to Arnold Amber of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.
Nov. 7 -- A South Korean container ship Cosco Busan collides with the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in California. About 58,000 gallons of bunker oil and diesel fuel are spilled -- the largest spill since 1988.
Nov. 23 -- Argentina New law stops timbering in native forests of Argentina following an environmental campaign gathering 1.5 million petitions for forest protection.
Dec. 3- Bali, Indonesia -- International conference on climate change begins as part of an ongoing United Nations effort to develop a successor plan to the 1996 Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty that set mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions by industrialized countries.
December 6, 10:30 a.m. West Virginia -- Churchbells ring and a moment of silence is observed in West Virginia by order of the governor in observance of the 100 years anniversary of the Monongah Mine disaster. Some 362 coal miners were killed and public outrage led to creation of the US Bureau of Mines in 1910.
Dec. 14 -- US -- Conservative senators (by one vote) and President George Bush block provisions of an Energy Bill that would have financed renewable energy by cutting tax breaks for oil companies.
Dec. 25 -- Vatican -- Pope Benedict XVI appeals for peace and environmental protection in his annual Christmas message. The same day, some Americans continued to insist that climate change "believers" are just a "cult."
Dec. 30 -- US Climate Data Center and others say 2007 was the warmest year on record.
In one of the most emotionally charged US presidential campaigns in history, Democrat Barak Obama wins a landslide victory and promises to reform environmental law enforcement.
Jan 15 -- Two members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society are seized after boarding Japanese whaling vessel Yushin Maru No. 2 to deliver a protest to the ship's captain. Environmentalists are trying to bring more attention to Japanese whaling practices, saying most of the "harvested" whale meat was destined for Japanese consumers and not scientific research, as is Japan's obligation under international treaties.
Jan 25 -- US Forest Service opens 3.4 million acres (1.4 million hectares) of Alaska's Tongass National Forest to logging despite protests.
February 7 -- Scientists at Princeton University and the Nature Consevancy publish findings in Science magazine that more greenhouse gases are created if forests and other natural ecosystems are converted into farmland to produce biofuels crops.
Feb 28 -- British Antarctic Survey and U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) report the collapse of a 160-square-mile (405-sq-km) section of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in western Antarctica around the end of the Antarctic summer.
March 10 -- Conservative US Southern Baptist religious domination says there is an obligation to address climate change, and noted that the church's previous position was "too timid."
March 11 -- US National Research Council reports that rising sea levels threatens key infrastructure in the U.S.
March 17 -- The World Glacier Monitoring Service, based at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, reports that melting of 30 glaciers from nine mountain regions has accelerated. This will have negative impacts for drinking water and power generation in poor areas of South Asia and South America, the WGMS said.
April 4 -- China sentences human rights and environmental advocate Hu Jia to three and a half years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power." Accordig to Wikipedia, Hu became interested in environmental issues while in university and participated in several environmental organizations including the Friends of Nature, led by Liang Congjie and the 1997 Green Camp university student environmental camp led by Tang Xiyang. In 1998 Hu Jia was involved in rescuing some wild elk that were threatened by severe flooding that year. Hu was subsequently involved in efforts to protect the Tibetan Antelope that were being slaughtered for their fur. The arrest and sentencing had more to do with silencing dissent in advance of the Bejing Olympics than it did with Hu's activities, critics said.
May 13 -- Brazil's Environment Minister Marina Silva resigns to protest the failure to protect the Amazon rain forest. Earlier that year, new estimates put rainforest loss increases at 34 % over the previous year. An estimated 5,791 square miles were cleared in 2007, up from 4,334 square miles in 2006. Silva's resignation was widely seen as underscoring the environmental problems of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
May 22 -- Lacey Act, first passed in 1900, is amended in US to curtail illegal logging.
June 16 -- UN high commissioner for refugees, Antonio Guterres, links the increasing number of world refugees to some of the effects of global warming. Climate change led people to be driven from their homes "both directly, through impact on environment--not allowing people to live any more in the areas they were traditionally living--and as a trigger of extreme poverty and conflict" he told Britain's Guardian newspaper.
July 9 -- Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations will cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050, they agree. This is the first time that all eight countries made the climate commitment.
Aug 4 -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, soon to become the Republican vice presidential nominee, sues US Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who on May 14 had declared that the the polar bear was a "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act due to shrinking sea ice. (The designation came only after lawsuits by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace.) Palin's lawsuit on behalf of the state of Alaska said the designation could imperil development of oil and gas fields.
Sept. 10 -- US Interior Department Inspector reports on widespread misconduct within an office of the department's Minerals Management Service (MMS). Employees had accepted gifts from energy companies, had sexual contact with representatives of energy companies and bought and used drugs, including cocaine.
Sept 12 -- Arctic ice shrinking -- U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) report that the area of Arctic ice was at a 2008 summer low of 1.74 million square miles (4.5 million sq km). The record was not quite as low as 2007, with a low of 1.59 million square miles.
September -- More dire warnings about climate change accumulate. Scientists with the Global Climate Project estimate that the current carbon dioxide emissions trend would result in an 11° Fahrenheit temperature rise by the end of the century.
Oct 6 -- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN),warns that one in four of the world's mammals could become extinct from habitat loss, climate change, hunting or other threats.
Nov. 4 -- Barack Obama wins US presidential election, promising changes in US policies in many areas, including environmental protection.
November - Approval of a new open pit gold mining project in northern Costa Rica is a serious environmental embarrassment for the Arias government, environmentalists say.
Nov 12 -- US Supreme Court rules that the Navy can use sonar in training exercises off the California coast even if it might harm whales and other aquatic mammals.
Nov. 13 -- Russian environmental journalist Mikhair Beketov is severely beaten and left for dead following reporting on the Khimki forest controversy.
November -- Tropical birds, protected by international treaty since 1912, are again under threat. So many of Venezuela's scarlet finches, also called the red siskins (Carduelis cucullata), have been captured for breeding with canaries that they are near extinction.
Dec 22 -- Tennessee -- Over a billion gallons of coal fly ash sludge spills out of a holding dam near Kinsport, TN, creating a larger spill than the Oct. 11 2000 spill at Inez, Ky. TVA tells consumers that conditions are "probably safe," that they should boil water and that fly ash is similar to gypsum. In reality, the toxic brew contains significant amounts of arsenic, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chromium, chromium VI, cobalt, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum,selenium, strontium, thallium, and vanadium, along with dioxins and PAH compounds. During the subsequent weeks and months of the disaster, TVA continues to grossly mislead residents of the region about the safety of of the spill materials. In addition, environmental activists with United Mountain Defense are arrested and harassed when they attempt to take air and water samples, while other environmental activists manage to slip under the radar, taking air and water samples that indicate TVA is deliberately falsifying test results. The media uproar is significant, and a federal investigation was under way by Spring of 2009.
December - Mexico -- Manganese mines in the mountains of Hidalgo province, in central Mexico, are found to be causing serious neurological damage to nearby residents,
December -- US President George W. Bush prepares to leave office with the lowest level of attention to environmental protection of any president in US history. Along with ordering the subversion of hundreds of laws and existing regulations, and dismantling regulatory institutions and demoralizing government agency employees, the Bush administration frequently rewrote scientific reports to suit political ends.
Dec. 29 -- Mexico -- About half of the Monarch butterfly reserve in the mountains of central Mexico is now gone due to illegal logging, a report says
Barak Obama takes office amid an upwelling of hope that environmental protection can become a higher international priority but ends with the collapse of climate negotiations in Copenhagen.
Jan 15 -- U.S. Climate Action Partnership presents plan to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 20% of 2005 levels by 2050 through a cap and trade system.The business - backed plan is seen as a method to cushion the impact of climate legislation that will be taken up in the Congress.
January 27 -- Climate researchers from NOAA report that levels of CO2 expected by 2050 would lead to a sea-level rise and droughts that would last for a millennia. The findings were reported by Susan Solomon, a senior scientist at the NOAA in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Meanwhile, other scientists warned of accelerating climate change, including Christopher Field, director of the Carnegie Institute's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University. Fields said:
"We are .. looking now at a future climate that's beyond anything we've considered seriously in climate model situations."
Feb 20 -- A new international protocol on mercury pollution begins at a UN summit in Kenya after the US reverses the Bush administration opposition. Indian and China also agree to participate with the US opposition removed. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment and Sustainable Development Daniel Reifsnyder will lead negotiations.
Feb 24 -- US climate monitoring satellite launch failes, and the Orbiting Carbon Observatory crashes into the Indian Ocean.
March 30 -- President Obama signs the largest wilderness protection bill in 15 years, protecting two million acres in nine states.
April 1 -- US Supreme Court rules against Riverkeepers that cost-benefit analysis can be used in environmental cases. In Entergy Corp. v. Riverkeeper Inc., the isse involved about 500 old power plants and whether they ought to insall new equipment to prevent billions of aquatic organisms from dying each year through thermal pollution. The cost of updating the power plants was about $3.5 billion each year, but the dollar value of the marine organisms was set at only $83 million. In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens argued:
"A regulation's financial costs are often more obvious and easier to quantify than its environmental benefits... Cost-benefit analysis often, if not always, yields a result that does not maximize environmental protection."
April 17 -- US EPA rules that emissions of six greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, are a danger to public and should be regulated. This followed an April 2007 Supreme Court ruling that greenhouse gasses should be regulated ( Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency) and a rule-making procedure in the Bush Administration that was little more than foot-dragging.
April 17 -- Summit of the Americas brings together elected leaders from 34 countries to discuss sustainable energy, protecting the environment and human prosperity.
May -- Toxic waste from a Tanzanian gold mine spills into River Tigithe, killing 20 people and a thousand cows. Barrick Gold mining company denied any connection to the incident. (Memory, Truth and Justice for Heroes, Friends of the Earth report, 2011).
May 8 --US -- W.R. Grace Co. acquitted on federal charges that it hid the threat of asbestos contamination from residents of Libby, Montana.
May 11 -- US EPA takes charge of the one billion gallon toxic coal ash spill that occurred December 22, 2008 at the Kingston Fossil power plant near Knoxville, Tennessee.
May 13 -- Nations submit hundreds of conflicting claims to portions of the ocean floor to the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
May 14 -- Ontario, Canada passes Green Energy Act providing "feed in tariffs" designed to accelerate use of wind and solar energy. It is the most serious government-level North American investment in renewable energy and is patterned after existing investment plans in Denmark, Germany and other European nations.
May 19 -- Obama administration proposes new corporate average fuel economy standards increase by 10 miles a gallon to 35.5 miles per gallon between 2012-16. Tailpipe emissions would be reduced by more than 30 percent. Rules are adopted on Sept. 15.
Spring - Summer -- Appalachia -- Protests over mountaintop removal mining accelerate in the coal fields of Appalachia in the United States. Protesters want an end to the destruction, safe containment for sludge dams and a shift to renewable energy.
June 5 -- Ten Peruvian Indians and 23 police officers were killed in clashes when police broke up a peaceful June 2009 protest by Indigenous people in Bagua in Peru’s northern Amazon region, according to Amnesty International. The deaths came following protests over laws relating to the use of land and natural resources, which the indiginous peoples said were a threat to their rights and livelihood.
June 9 -- Shell Oil Co. settles out of court with Nigerians affected by the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists in 1995. The executions were carried out despite worldwide protests.
June 22 -- US Supreme Court rules that Coeur Alaska Inc., a gold-mining company, is allowed to dump slurry waste in Lower Slate Lake near Juneau, Alaska. The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council said the mine tailings would destroy life in the lake.
July 9 -- The Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized nations (U.S., Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Japan and Canada_ agree to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, leading to hopes for a successful summit in Copenhagen, Denmark. (See Dec. 18, 2009).
Aug. 17 -- The Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric plant in Siberia explodes, killing 75 and leaving oil slicks in its wake. Before the accident it was the largest hydroelectric plant in Russia and the sixth largest in the world, according to a Wikipedia article.
Sept. 30 -- US EPA announces new Clean Air Act regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants.
Oct 21 -- India and China agree on a joint approach to climate talks "that not only protects the environment but promotes the interests of developing countries," according to Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.
October -- Memos between scientists working on climate issues are leaked to bloggers, creating a furious controversy over the legitimacy of the science of climate modeling. See coverage on Climate Wars by the Guardian (UK) and Global Warming by the New York Times.
Nov. 24 -- Jose Galindo Robles, an award-winning environmental journalist and head of the University of Guadalajara (Ciudad Guzman) radio, was found murdered in his home in Jalisco State. Galindo-Robles had won the national prize for environmental journalism for his reporting on toxic waste dumping in the Santiago River. (IFEX: Journalists murder linked to reporting on environment). Altogether, 12 journalists were murdered in Mexico in 2009, according to Human Rights Clearinghouse.
December 18 -- Copenhagen -- The first decade of the 21st century ends with the collapse of climate negotiations in Copenhagen. US President Barack Obama announces a non-binding agreement between the U.S., China, Brazil, South Africa and India. But representatives from 193 countries failed to reach a consensus on replacement for the 1997 Kyoto Protocol emissions treaty, set to expire in 2012.
Dec. 30 -- US National Park Service and State of West Virginia remove the Blair Mountain Battfield labor history site from the National Register of Historic Places at the request of the coal industry, which intends to strip mine the site.
Serious cooperation on envirionmental issues continues to elude the international community.
Jan. 1 -- France sets a carbon tax of 17 Euros per ton on all fossil fuels, following similar but much higher taxes in Sweden (imposed as early as 1991), Denmark, Finland, Norway and Switzerland.
Jan 14 -- Sea Shepherd's racing vessel, the Ady Gil, is rammed by Japanese whaling ship the Shonan Maru 2, during an action designed to protest and interfere with whaling.
March 25 -- The previous decade 2000 - 2009 was the warmest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The finding corresponds with US NASA agency's finding that the decade was the warmest since the 1850s when the first systematic records of temperatures were begun.
April 5 -- West Virginia -- A methane explosion rocks Massey Coal Company's Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, killing 29 miners and injuring others. It is the largest loss of life in United States coal mining history in 40 years. In 1970, 38 miners were killed at Finley Coal mines in Kentucky, and in 1968, 78 miners were killed at the Farmington mine in West Virginia.
NOTE: Coal mining accidents in the US are sometimes compared with those in China, where (officially) the death rate is 5,000 per year, but unofficial estimates put the number as high 20,000 per year, according to Time Magazine and other sources.
April 20 -- Deepwater Horizon disaster, Gulf of Mexico -- An explosion kills 11 and badly injures 9 more workings on this modern drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, off the Louisana 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, similar to the Piper Alpha disaster in the North sea on July 6, 1988, killing 167 men in a fiery explosion. It is also similar to the Ixtoc 1 blowout on June 3, 1979 in the Bay of Campeche, spilling about 138 million gallons ((450,000 metric tons) of oil. Another offshore rig incident was the Ocean Ranger, which sank in heavy seas off the Altantic coast of Canada on 15 February 1982 with a loss of 84 crew members. The dangers and costs of recovering oil at extreme depths were highlighted by these incidents. See the Wikipedia list of oil spills.
Final Report -- A system-wide failure, not just one or two mistakes, was behind the blow-out, a January 2011 commission report says.
Context -- As the Gulf coast beaches slowly recovered from the single incicent oil spill, international activists point out that in other petroleum-rich areas of the world, oil spills are a daily fact of life.
April 22 -- US EPA issues rules on automotive fuel efficiency and, for the first time, regulates greenhouse gas emissions. New regulations for coal fired power plants follow in July.
April 28 -- US Secretary of Interior Ken Salizar announces approval of controversial Cape Wind offshore wind electric project.
May 31 -- Australia sues Japan in the International Court of Justice over whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
June 24 -- International Whaling Commission talks collapse. The talks would have suspended a 1986 ban on commercial whaling in exchange for commitments by Japan, Norway and Iceland to reduce whale kills. These have continued in defiance of the international ban. Greenpeace says whale populations are not recovering and all whaling must stop.
July -- Nigerian court orders Shell Oil Co. to pay N. 15.4 billion in puntive and remedial damages to clean up one of thousands of oil spills that plague the country.
July 7 -- A team of scientists at the East Anglia University report that the university's Climate Research Unit did not alter data in support of the theory that man-made (anthropogenic) greenhouse gasses were major contributors to climate change. The allegations surfaced in Nov. 2009 after about 1,000 emails were leaked online. The report said that the "rigor and honesty" of the researchers was not in doubt, but that they had failed "to display the proper degree of openness." Previous panels at Pennsylvania State University and East Anglia also concluded that there was no dishonesty in the scientific methods or approaches of the climate researchers.
July -- Two environmental journalists murdered in West Papua, Indonesia. Ardiansyah Matra'is, a reporter with Merauke TV, was killed July 28 after receiving threatening text messages. Muhammad Syaifullah, was apparently poisoned the week before. Syaifullah was the head of the Borneo bureau of Kompas, Indonesia's biggest daily newspaper. He was covering the impacts of mining in the Kalimantan region, according to the International Press Institute. International human rights groups such as Article 19 and IFEX demand an inquiry.
July 21 -- Environmental activist Amit Jethwa assassinated in Gujarat, India. See Times of India story.
August -- Khimki Forest, near Moscow, cut down for a highway. A dry, hot summer with severe fires provides an excuse for Russian government to bulldoze one of the few remaining natural areas around Moscow, the Khimki Forest. Yevgenia Chirikova, a mother and environmental actist, has been repeatedly arrested and harrassed for her opposition to the highway and attempts to protect the forest. Others in the movement Ecodefense have been attacked and severely crippled by thugs operating on behalf of the government. See Washington Post article Aug. 13, 2010.
August -- Heavy flooding kills 1,254 in China's Zhouqu region on the Ballong River. Deforestation is a major factor in the flooding, environmental scientists say.
Oct 5 -- Hungarian toxic dam break kills seven -- Hungary declares state of emergency after an industrial dam breaks, killing seven people and spilling about one million cubic meters of toxic waste from an aluminum production plant near Devecser.
Oct. 13 -- Canada puts bisphenol A (BPA) on the toxic substances list. BPAis a common additive in plastics.
Oct 24 -- Belize Zoo takes a direct hit from Hurricane Richard
Nov. 2 -- California voters reject an oil industry proposal to stop regulating greenhouse gas emissions. The ballot initiative would have rolled back a 2006 law.
November -- Indian environmental groups warn that a proposed diamond mine by Rio Tinto -- t he Bunder diamond project in Chhatarpur -- will destroy an ecologically sensitive zone close to the Panna Tiger Reserve.
Nov. 29 - Dec. 10 -- United Nations climate change talks in Cancun, Mexico end with some agreements on funding for climate change mitigation strategies in vulnerable parts of the developing world.
Fall, 2010 -- Cornwall Allience and other US right-wing groups begin promoting the idea that environmentalism is a relious cult inspired by the anti-Christ. "Dominion, not death," is the dichotomy they present, although in fact the opposing philosophical position has long been called "Stewardship" in Christian and Jewish traditions. See stories in Change.org, ThinkProgress and others. The danger of course is that when dehumanizing rhetoric begins, inhuman action can follow.
Dec. 10 -- US federal court rejects challenges to EPA greenhouse gas regulations.
Dec. 14 -- Russian police arrest leaders of an environmental protest concerning timbering of old-growth forests in the Utrish Nature Reserve in Krasnodar Territory. Increasingly brutal tactics against environmentalists and environmental journalists have led to protests, according to the Biodiversity Media Alliance. Altogether, at least 52 Russian journalists have been murdered in two decades, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Dec. 21 -- United Nations biodiversity efforts focused through new Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
2011 -- Europe begins to take the lead in environmentally sound technologies. Meanwhile, irrational, violent, anti-scientific rhetoric -- often promoted by corporate interests -- begins to tip the balance of American politics. A nuclear disaster in Japan demonstrates the dangers of blind faith in authority and effectively ends the 60-year global experiment with nuclear power development.
Jan. 13 -- EPA vetoes water permit for massive Spruce No. 1 mountaintop removal site in West Virginia. The veto is a major victory for environmentalists and sparks violent rhetoric from the coal industry and its supporters.
Jan. 15 -- EPA approves use of 15% ethanol blended fuels in gasoline, sparking renewed debate over environmental benefits and drawbacks of corn ethanol.
Jan. 21 -- Canada regulates phthlates, a type of chemical used to soften plastics.
Jan 25 - Philippine journalist Gerry Ortega is gunned down after investigating environmental issues in Palawan state. In Sept. 2011, the Philippine government said it was investigating ties between killers and Governor Joel Reyes. But the case against the alleged masterminds has barely moved forward, Ortega's family said in February 2012.
Jan. 24 -- Carol Browner steps down as director of the office of energy and climate change policy, steps down. Passage of any climate change legislation seems impossible in the anti-science climate of the US House of Representatives, where most Republicans believe that climate change is some kind of hoax.
January -- California Energy Commission report on energy costs says nuclear power is more expensive than any other conventional or renewable resource except solar photovoltaics.
Feb. 14 -- A court in Ecuador levied an $8.2 billion (US) fine on Chevron Oil Co. for polluting large swaths of the Lago Agrio area of the upper Amazon. Ecuadorian plaintiffs were originially seeking $113 billion in damages. The ruling concluded a case filed in 1993. A documentary video called "Crude" was made about the case, and was itself under attack in US courts by Chevron. The oil company claimed the ruling was a "fraud" according to The Guardian, An appeal to the International Court at the Hague was in progress when the ruling was handed down in Ecuador. Meanwhile, controversy about the role of a federal judge broke out in June, 2011.
Feb. 25 -- NOAA becomes latest to clear climate scientists of improper research or fraud, as was originally charged by climate deniers who hacked East Anglia University scientists emails in the fall of 2010. Other organizations who held inquiries that also cleared scientists include United Kingdom's House of Commons, the National Research Council and Pennsylvania State University. In no case were any scientists found guilty of fraud, as charged by climate deniers.
March 13 -- Nuclear reactor melt-downs, explosions and spent fuel fires at the Fukushima power complex create a major disaster for public health and environment as well as Japan's economy. The melt-downs were triggered by a complex chain of events, including loss of coolant and explosions that scattered nuclear fuel rods from cooling ponds. The melt-downs followed an earthquake and tsunami that killed tens of thousands of people. Health impacts from the Fukushima disaster and not yet estimated. The disaster, for all practical purposes, ends the 60 year hope that nuclear power could create safe, cheap power worldwide and stave off accelerating climate change. An excellent map of worldwide nuclear power plants by type is available at the New Scientist web site.
April 5 - 9 -- Anna Hazare fasts to raise awareness of corruption in India and to promote "Right to Information" legislation. The fast is renewed in August and Hazare is arrested.
April -- Nuclear power is no longer viable for future energy production. Two thirds of Americans would protest a nuclear power plant built near their homes, one poll shows. In the UK, a majority now feel that nuclear power is too dangerous, and the "vast majority" wanted more investment in renewable energy.
May -- Germany decides to phase out nuclear power, while Switzerland said it would build no new nuclear reactors.
May 9 -- Renewable energy could power 80% of the world by 2050, according to the UN-affiliated International Renewable Energy Agency. The report follows other studies of the potential for renewable energy, including a study published in Energy Policy in January 2011. Many regions, nations and states began setting renewable energy goals and policies, including 30% renewables for California by 2020 and 20% renewables for Europe by 2020.
May 20 -- Panama begins filling the Chan-75 dam, displacing hundreds of indiginous Ngobe people.
May -- New geopolitcs of food, a Foreign Policy article by Lester Brown, points out:
By the end of 2009, hundreds of land acquisition deals had been negotiated, some of them exceeding a million acres. A 2010 World Bank analysis of these "land grabs" reported that a total of nearly 140 million acres were involved -- an area that exceeds the cropland devoted to corn and wheat combined in the United States. Such acquisitions also typically involve water rights, meaning that land grabs potentially affect all downstream countries as well. Any water extracted from the upper Nile River basin to irrigate crops in Ethiopia or Sudan, for instance, will now not reach Egypt, upending the delicate water politics of the Nile by adding new countries with which Egypt must negotiate.
May -- American public opinion about climate change involves six prevalent beliefs about climate change, according to a Yale and George Mason university researchers: Alarmed 12% -- Concerned 27% -- Cautious 25% -- Disengaged 10% -- Doubtful 15% -- Dismissive 10% -- The major changes since the survey was first taken in Nov. 2008 involve slight declines in the extreme positions. [Link to full pdf report ].
June -- Extreme drought in China leads to unprecedented critism of Three Gorges Dam and other projects.
June -- Extra hot summers may be here to stay due to climate change, says a Stanford University report.
June 6 -- US Supreme Court declines to review General Electric v EPA, a challenge to the CERCLA (Superfund) law regarding responsibility for cleanup of toxic wastes. The decision leaves enforcement power with EPA.
June 9 -- Infant mortality on the US west coast rose 35% in the weeks after the Fukushima disaster, according to an analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control.
June 13-- American Electric Power, on the the largest electric utilities in the US, claims that Clean Air regulations passed in 2007 will force it to close two dozen coal fired power plants and lay off hundreds of workers. What AEP does not say is that these are plants with an average age of 55 years running at low capacity. It's a transparent scare tactic, says the New York Times. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed the new EPA regulations on behalf of the most vulnerable members of society.
June 13 -- Indian religious figure, Swami Nigamanand, dies under mysterious circumstances after fasting in protest of illegal mining in the River Ganges. The river, considered sacred in Hindu tradition, is heavily polluted and not likely to improve if current circumstances continue.
June 14 -- Six Amazon forest activists are murdered over a three week period in Brazil, according to Agence France Presse. While murders over land disputes are not uncommon, hired gunment "appear to be targeting social and human rights activists in areas of Brazil's Amazon rainforest," said Amnesty international.
June 16 -- Fukushima disaster may turn out to be worse than Chernobyl, world media are reporting. One expert tells Al-Jazeera there are 20 nuclear cores exposed, and fuel pools have several cores each. So, that is 20 times the potential to be released than Chernobyl. Meanwhile, a nuclear waste advisor to the Japanese government reported that about 966 square kilometres near the power station is now likely uninhabitable... Hot particles of strontium, cesium and plutonium have been found as far away as Tokyo. The reports seem to confirm what Helen Caldicott said in March, 2011, that Fukushima was worse by many orders of magnitude than Chernobyl.
June 19 -- Japanese people want to scrap nuclear power by an 82% margin, according to a survey by Tokyo Shimbun newspaper (reported by Agence France-Presse) . The majority, 54%, want a phased shut down, while 28 percent wanted an immediate shutdown or decommissioning at relicensing. An editorial in Asahi Shimbun noted developments in Europe and said:
"We, the people, must not remain silent any longer. Our country's energy policy will decide our future. How can we ever leave such a crucial decision to the "authorities" and whichever way the political wind may blow? It is up to us to choose our energy policy and accept responsibility for it.
June 20 -- US Supreme Court rejects a nuisance suit and rules that EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The suit was filed in 2004 by states and environmental groups against American Electric Power in the hope of holding utilities accountable under the common nuisance law. The court said that the litigation was superceded by the Clean Air Act.
June 30 - July 1 -- Climate denier conference takes place in Washington DC. Claiming to "restore the scientific method" to climate science, this and similar efforts are in fact deliberately calculated to undermine climate science by oil and fossil fuel industries such as Exxon-Mobil, Koch Industries and Western Fuels. See articles in The Independent, Mother Jones, also Exxon Secrets, and SourceWatch
Aug. 9 -- On the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, Amnesty International notes:
Across the Americas, Indigenous Peoples are seen as standing in the way of commercial interests, and are threatened, harassed, forcibly evicted, displaced and killed in the drive to exploit natural resources in the areas where they live.
Aug. 16 -- Environmental activist Shehla Masood assassinated at her home near Bhopal, India. Both Masood and Amit Jethwa (killed July, 2010) were fighting a Rio Tinto mining project in an attempt to save the Panna Tiger Reserve. See articles in the Times of India, Toxics Watch
August 2011 – Divers finally shut down Shell’s blown-out Gannet Alpha platform in the North Sea.
Aug. 25 -- Peruvian Congress unanimously passes law requiring consultation with indiginous peoples prior to project development. Hundreds of peruvians
Aug. 27 -- Hurricane Irene hits US east coast, causing massive damage. Questions about an association between climate change and the increasing overall strength of hurricanes become more pressing. Kerry Emanuel of MIT tells the New York Times:
“On a longer time scale, I think — but not all of my colleagues agree — that the evidence for a connection between Atlantic hurricanes and global climate change is fairly compelling.”
Aug. 30 -- Famed guitar making company Gibson is raided by federal agents searching for illegal tropical hardwoods. Some see it as regulatory over-reaching. Others point to chronic under-reaching as the norm in US environmental enforcement.
Sept. 12 -- Arctic sea ice reaches an historic low, international scientists find.
Oct. 18 -- Global malaria deaths have fallen by 20% since 2001, WHO says, and over 30 countries are on course to eradicate the mosquito-borne disease by 2020. The fall in deaths is believed to be the result of improved diagnostic technologies and wider use of malaria vaccines.
Oct 20 -- Berkeley earth project re-confirms climate warming.
Nov. 28 -- Climate conference starts in Durban, South Africa. It was the 17th annual conference on climate change, and there was much at stake. Two important questions faced the delegates: Would the Kyoto Protocol be continued? And how will the Green Climate Fund be financed and managed? The UN's top climate negotiator hopes so.
2011 year-end note: The global escalation of environmental assassinations, in retaliation for peaceful oppostion to mining and logging, is one of the most disturbing trends we have observed in environmental history. Circumstances call for concerted investigations by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and other international human rights and environmental NGOs.
2012 -- An unusually cold winter in Europe contrasts with an unusually warm winter in North America. Blistering heat and astonishing wildfires mark the North American summer.
January -- The US begins primary campaigns for the Nov. 2012 presidential election with Republican candidates insisting that they do not "believe" in climate change or environmental protection.
January 18 -- US President Barack Obama denies an application from a Canadian company for a permit to build and operate the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Jan. 25 -- UNEP says there are economic benefits to ocean cleanup, but serious consequences if no action is taken.
Feb. 8 -- Mohamad Nasheed, the first democratically elected president of the Maldives, is deposed in a coup. Nasheed was known for his outspoken advocacy about climate change and the potential for island nations to disappear in the 21st century. Silencing him may be one reason for the coup.
Feb. 22 -- United Nations renewable energy agency kicks off "sustainable energy for all" program in 2012. The program is particularly targeted to the developing world, where one person in five lacks access to modern electricity, and nearly three billion people rely on wood, coal, charcoal or animal waste for cooking and heating.
Feb. 28 --The Shanghai unit of Johnson Controls is shut down by the Chinese government after discoveries of heavy lead poisoning among children. The government says it will continue to crack down on heavy metal pollution after numerous similar incidents in recent years.
March 2 -- The battle over access to a climate scientists university records came to a close with the Virginia state supreme court telling the state's attorney general that his inquisition had gone too far. Climate scientist Michael Mann, meanwhile, published a book about his experiences in the Climate Wars.
March 11 -- First anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011.
March 27-- US EPA issues the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from newly built power plants,
March 27 -- Shell Oil and Total Oil Co. shut down natural gas platforms in the North Sea as uncontrolled gas bubbles up from the seabed.
May -- Tsunami debris from the Japanese earthquake / tsunami / nuclear meltdown begins washing up on US Pacific Coast shores as protests mark the re-start of two Japanese reactors.
May - June -- Riots in Peru over Xstrata and Minas Conga projects.
June 19 -- James Lovelock, the 92-year-old former scientist once famed for the Gaia hypothesis, now says he's NOT worried about climate change. Wind energy is "useless" he says and the green movement is full of "meaningless drivel." Lovelock also reviles environmental science and says environmentalism is just a substitute for religion. The dehumanizing rhetoric is picked up by susceptible organizations like the Christian Broadcasting Network, and becomes another contribution to the already existing climate of fear and harrassment faced by scientists.
June 22 -- As delegates head home from Rio +20- -- a disappointing 20th anniversary Earth Summit conference -- native Brazilians demonstrate against the Bello Monte dam complex, third largest in the world. One major issue involves increasing murders of environmental activists.
June 28 -- US federal appeals court upholds EPA's rules for regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
June 25 -- The 50th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring.
June 25 -- US Geological Survey notes that sea level rise on the US east coast is accelerating, with sea levels 4.8 inches higher in some locations.
June 27 -- Canada's bird populations are in deep decline, according to a report by the Canadian Wildlife Service.
July 5 -- A parliamentary inquiry in Japan concludes that the nuclear accident at Fukushima was a preventable disaster rooted in government-industry collusion and the worst conformist conventions of Japanese culture.
July 5 -- Another death in Peru's ongoing series of riots and protests over mining.
July 8 -- Death toll in Russian flooding tops 155.
July 11 -- In the wake of violent mining protests in Bolivia, president Evo Morales revokes the mining rights of the Canadian based South American Silver Corp. According to the Montreal Globe and Mail: "Mr. Morales has been a champion of his country’s natural resources since he became Bolivia’s first indigenous president in a landslide victory in 2006, when he promptly nationalized the key natural gas industry. Backed by the nation’s indigenous majority, he has since taken control of several utility companies as well Bolivia’s largest smelter and its top telecommunications firm."