1960 Wallace Stegner wrote a letter on Dec. 3 to the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission that described the need for a national wilderness preservation. Stegner's Wilderness Letter was included in the Commission's 1962 report that helped pass the 1964 Wilderness Act that represented a fundamental shift in the environmental movement away from conservation back to a version of preservation that became known as "environmentalism"
1962 Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring that was aimed at the general public and became the Uncle Tom's Cabin of the new environmentalism. She was a marine biologist who spent four years collecting data on 12 dangerous poisons used by the chemical industry, including DDT. Her findings made "chemical" almost a dirty word, and reflected a modern shift away from biology to a new emphasis on chemistry and physics.
Ansel Adams book
Former Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson called her a Communist spinster, but President Kennedy asked his Science Advisory Committee to investigate and the committee supported her findings. She wrote that "most of us walk unseeing through the world" and were unaware of its hidden dangers, and "the control of nature is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man."
1962 The Sierra Club published In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World with color photos by Eliot Porter, such as Rainbow Bridge in the Colorado's Glen Canyon, having an impact on the general public as did the sharp black-an-white photos of Ansel Adams that were published in 1960 as This Is the American Earth
1963 Stewart Udall wrote The Quiet Crisis and called for "modern Muirs" to step forward and become leaders of the environmental movement (but when Udall became Secretary of the Interior he joined with his congressman brother Morris to push for dams on the Colorado River that would cover part of the Grand Canyon)
Ralph Nader 1965
1964 Barry Commoner's group that had formed in the 1950s to oppose the AEC evolved in an environmental organization that published the journal Scientist and Citizen changing its name in 1967 to simply Environment; Commoner and Ralph Nader in the 1960s were leaders of a general critique of the American system, of the ability of science and capitalism to represent the interest of the people, especially the environment. New issues had arisen with modern technology, related to air-conditioning, disposable plastic bottles, nuclear reactors, commercial jets. In the past, conservationists had worried about the forests and wildlife. Now, they added new worries: water and air pollution, radiation poisoning, overpopulation, global warming
1965 The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit to protect Storm King Mountain in New York from a power project, and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Club, allowing for the first time noneconomic interests in conservation cases. This breakthrough allowed more lawsuits to be filed. Victor Yannacone in 1966 file a class action lawsuit to stop DDT spraying on Long Island. Yannacone joined with Charles Wurster in 1967 to create the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
Santa Barbara oil rig 1972
They received funding from the Ford Foundation and the Rachel Carson Memorial Fund of National Audubon Society to file suits that led to bans on DDT and the establishment of precedents in environmental law. The success of the EDF led to the formation of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club's Legal Defense Fund, and similar legal efforts by the National Wildlife Federation and National Audubon Society
1966 The Sierra Club opposed building two dams that would have flooded the Grand Canyon, published newspaper ads that said "This time it's the Grand Canyon they want to flood. The Grand Canyon. " The IRS suspended the Club's tax-exempt status, but Club membership increased and in 1968 the dam plan was killed.
1966 Congress passed the Endangered Species Act; an air inversion in New York City killed 80 people from air pollution.
1967 British PM Harold Macmillan sent warplanes to bomb the tanker Torrey Canyon to prevent the spread of an oil spill to the shores of west England, but unsuccessfully; Cleveland Amory founded Fund for Animals; Dr. Paul Lee started the Student Garden Project at the University of California, Santa Cruz and hired Alan Chadwick, the famous proponent of organic gardening, to develop the garden that became known as the Chadwick Garden. Chadwick introduced the French Intensive and Biodynamic systems of food and flower production to America. He is one of the six members of the Ecology Hall of Fame
Earthrise by Apollo 8
1968 Apollo 8 sent back the earth-rise pictures from space that gave a new global perspective to the environmental movement
1969 The Santa Barbara oil spill from a Union Oil offshore well blowout caused polluted beaches and public anger; Greenpeace was founded by a group of Canadians to protest whale hunting and nuclear testing, using direct action methods such as putting their own boats in front of the whale-hunting ships; Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act to mandate consideration of environmental issues prior to major public decisions, and established the Environmental Protection Agency by 1970.
1970 The first Earth Day April 22 with 20 million participating world-wide in teach-ins and demonstrations and in Atlanta, Coke cans were dumped on the front lawn of the Coca-Cola office; young people became the foot soldiers of the movement, wrote the Sierra Club manual Ecotactics; "The Fox" in Chicago poured lake pollution on the rug of the home office of USS; commandos in Miami added yellow dye to the sewage flowing into defective treatment plants causing the water in Dade County to turn yellow; students in Ann Arbor cut down billboards; Environmental Action in Washington awarded the Golden Fox trophy to the best "ecotage" tactic; The Environmental Action Group in Florida began one of the earliest recycling programs; Congress passed the Clean Air Act and the Natural Resources Defense Council -- links to Earth Day Network and History of Earth Day
1971 Congress killed development of a supersonic transport fearing the environmental impact of its sixty-mile path of sonic booms, supported by the conservation efforts of Charles Lindbergh who argued that the SST wasted fuel, polluted the upper atmosphere, was too expensive, and served only the limited interests of a few political and commercial groups; Justice William O. Douglas led the fight to save the 189-mile Chesapeake & Ohio Canal from the "Twin Gods" of the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Public Roads, leading a march of conservationists from the Wilderness and Audobon societies along the entire length of the canal in 1954, helping it to become a national monument in 1960 and a national park in 1971, with Douglas leading an annual march, even with his heart pacemaker; Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
Everglades project 7/72
1972 Congress passed the Clean Water Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, Federal Environmental Pesticide Control Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Ocean Dumping Act, and the Federal Advisory Committee Act to require representation of public interest advocates on committees; Congress passed the Water Pollution Control Act over President Nixon's veto 52 to 12 in the Senate, 247 to 23 in the House; Oregon passed the first bottle-recycling law; the Club of Rome published Limits to Growth in 1972; the Stockholm conference attempted to gain international cooperation to address environmental issues
1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna was signed by 80 nations; Congress passed the Endangered Species Act that was blamed for stopping the Tellico Dam to save snail darter; Congress approved the Alaska Pipeline project to bring oil from the North Slope to the Port of Valdez in Alaska; the Arab oil embargo began after the Yom Kippur War in the Mideast
1974 Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act; Karen Silkwood was killed in an auto accident when she was on her way to give evidence to a reporter that her company, Kerr-McGee, knew about nuclear contamination of its employees
Carter signed Love Canal bill with Lois Gibbs
1976 Congress passed the National Forest Management Act that required mandatory public hearings, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act that gave the EPA the authority to regulate hazardous waste; the National Academy of Sciences reported damage to the ozone layer was caused by aerosol can chlorofluorocarbons; the tanker Argo Merchant spilled 25,000 tons of fuel oil into the sea near Nantucket
1977 Love Canal, New York, was identified as a chemical waste site requiring evacuation of all inhabitants
1978 The tanker Amoco Cadiz spilled 226,000 tons of crude oil into ocean near Portsall, Brittany. French courts awarded $85 million in damages to claimants.
1979 Three Mile Island nuclear reactor near-meltdown in Pennsylvania; the tankers Atlantic Empress and Aegean Captain collide near Tobago, killing 27 and spilling 370,0000 tons of oil, the largest oil spill in history up to that time.
Three Mile Island 4/79
1980 Congress passed the Superfund bill to help identify and pay for cleaning up abandoned toxic waste sites that could numner 30,000, and a 1986 amendment provided community grants for citizens groups to hire experts; Congress passed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act that created 100 million acres of parks, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas.
1981 President Reagan represented a conservative backlash against environmental "extremism"
1983 Secretary of Interior James Watt and EPA administrator Anne Goresuch resigned from Reagan's Cabinet.
1984 Bhopal disaster Dec. 3 in India when a Union Carbide Co. fertilizer plant built in the middle of a densely-populated town leaked cyanide that resulted in 2000 dead, up to 8,000 additional deaths due to secondary effects, and 200,000 injured
1985 the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior was sunk off New Zealand by the French because of its obstruction of nuclear testing
1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in Russia on April 26 that killed 31, caused the evacuation of 450,000, and released a cloud of radioactivity over northern Europe