American Environmental History


Coal first mined in Richmond


Bituminous coal discovered in WV


used to heat furnaces for steelmaking; facilitated building efforts; raised transportation efficiency and safety; advantageous to Union in the Civil War

Canals built to carry coal; PA to east coast


Flushing toilets in homes


Invented in 1775, but took a long tie to be used. Latrobe in early 1800s designed and built American's first urban water supply system

Snow cures London of cholera


Snow, founder of epidemiology, mapped out cholera outbreaks in London's SoHo region. He discovered which well pump handle was transmitting the cholera, and broke the handle off.

Safety Elevator invented


As population in cities grew, buildings became skyscrapers. Invented by Elijah Otis.

Alaska was puchased


Secretary of State William Seward bought Alaska from the Russian government for $7.2 million. Land of extremes; northern section is permafrost, half treeless, very short growing season.

western coal production starts


William Jackson Palmer traveled to southern Colorado and northern New Mexico and began western production.

Refrigerated trains in operation


Before this time, ice was harvested from frozen river and stored inside ice house. used to cool food. refrigerated trains allow access to fruits and vegetables throughout the year. improves food supply.

ASPCA founded


Henry Bergh founded American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. lobbied for state and federal legislation to prohibit animal cruelty. Shortly thereafter, he created society for preventing cruelty to children.

1872 horse epidemic


As cities grew, depended more on horses and created manure problem. in Philadelphia, an epidemic killed horses.

Poughkeepsie drinking water


first city to filter its drinking water. slow introduction of main drainage and safe droning water supplies.

Waring sent to clean up Memphis


Waring becomes the first sanitary-engineer hero. helped save Memphis from yellow fever and cholera through innovative drainage design. transformation of sanitation

Louis Pasteru's germ theory


advanced germ theory of diseases and replaced commmon-held "miasma" theory.

Plate glass invented


This invention, along with steel girders, changed the way we build. Began age of skyscrapers.

United Mine Workers founded


most violent union in the nation; created by labor unrest from dangerous conditions of mining

Spread of electric streetcars bikes, and motor vehicles


facilitated development of suburbs, improved public health and safety. League of Americna Wheelmen campaigned for better roads.

Harrison's Forest Reserve Act


withdrew 13 million acres from public domain for "forest reserves" despite states' opposition. attempt to reforest depleted areas

Sierra Club founded in 1892


Founded by Muir, who was the first advocate of wilderness preservation. campaigned for Yosemite to be made a national park.

Pinchot publishes findings


Discovered that selecting mature trees facilitated growth of younger ones. Published findings in World's Fair in chicago. he studied forestry in germany. Member of the elite, had access to president

National Forest Commission


Pinchot urged extension of the forest reserves.

Yukon gold rush of 1897


discovery of gold aided Alaska's prospects. All access routes through Canada, along the Yukon, and from Skagway were hazardous. Jack London's Call of the Wild a testament to the gold rush.

Forest Management Act of 1897


Pinchot-conservationist for the sake of utility. Muir was a preservationist. Up until then they had agreed on everything.

PInchot and Forestry Division


Pinchot appointed to Forestry Divsiion of the US Government

Schenk first forestry school


German autocrat took over Biltmore, and founded first forestry school. used accurate mapping and photography.

US Forest Service


Pinchot transforms Forestry Division to US Forest Service. Used bureacracy to bring all forest reserves into new Service. Fundded by Loggers' licensing fees. economy and utility.

"The Jungle" is published


publicized the horrible details fo the meat business. prompted TR to support passage of Pure Food and Drug Act (his sausages). animals slaughtered within Chicago allowed for severe public health and workers' safety issues.

San Francisco Fire


Earthquake and subsequent fire hit San Francisco. As a result of the quake and fires, about 3,000 people died and over 80% of San Francisco was destroyed.
Didn't have enough water to put out fires, sparking hetch hetch-y damn controversy.

Conservation conference


Pinhot and Muir sparred over policy priorities.

Hetch Hetchy Dam Approved


Need for high pressure water system. Muir argued no dams because it's on federalproperty. TR and PInchot saw the need to protect San Fran. Muir was defeated. Interior Department approved the City's request -- 86% of San Francisco voters approve the project and $600,000 to purchase the "lands, rights, and claims" of Hetchy Hetchy

Ludlow Massacre


18 striking miners killed and miners retaliated by shooting company property and burning company town of Forbes

Beginnings of ecology


Frederic Clements introduced idea of plant communities

Battle of Blair Mountain


325 murder charges against West Virginia miners

Federal road building projects began


Freon invented


Thomas Midgley Jr. invented chemicaly stable, non-flammable CFC. fed into issue of ozone layer depletion

Bob Marshal explores Alaska


Bob Marshal explored the Brooks range by aircraft and dog sled team in the 1920s and early 1930s

Coal industry taken over by large corporations


"company towns" set up in mining areas allowed companies to control virtually every part of miners' lives; desire to harvest every piece of coal created cave-in threat. chokedamp, afterdamp, and fire damp threatened miners

Agricultural Adjustment Act


designed to keep farmers on the land, restrict output, and raise prices for farm goods. paid farmers to not plant certain crops. tried to reduce farm foreclosures. favored large-scale farms.

Introduction of "ecosystems"


Arthur Tansley introduces this idea. including both biological and physical and chemical components.

Introduction of "food web"


Lindeman introduced coneept of food web and raced energy transfers in ecosystems using economic metaphors.

Atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki


Road to Survival and Our Plundered Planet published


foresaw famine and catastrophe due oto overpuopulation; after WWII speculation that population increases were threatening future of the world; linked to soil depletion and agricultural decline

Center pivot irrigation invented


doesn't require costly land-leveling. water used from aquifers. depleted over time.

Leopold argues for land ethic


ethical system that included land, plants, animals, and people

Expansion of American cities and suburbs


post WWII era showed radical expansion of cities and suburbs. Depression and war years forestalled building. mass home-ownership facilitated by GI Bill. William Levitt learned how to mass produce housing. federally subsidized road building and car ownership helped. Civil Rights movement stimulated "white flight"

Nature Conservancy ounded


bought threatened land of special beauty or significance as habitat for endangered species

Cuyahoga River caught fire


and in 1969. beaches of lake erie were closed due to industrial sledge.

Eisenhower's "Atoms for peace" speech


called for regulation of nuclear power; Atomic Energy Commission followed suit.

Keeling begins measuring atmospheric carbon


in Mauna Loa, established his weather station. observed rising levels of CO2 even in period of global cooling in the 70s (Stephen Schneider). Ice core sampling enabled paleo-climatologists to trace connection between CO2 and global warm periods.

Interstate highway system created


Eisenhower administration created highways with legislation of 1956.

Price-Anderson Act of 1957


AEC and JCAE had to encourage doubtful utility companies to use nuclear power. GE and Westinghouse offered "turnkey" contracts in the early 1960s. Early concerns about thermal pollution and difficulties in construction. disposal of used fuel rods and faulty workmanship led to "whistleblowers" abandoning the field in mid 70s.

Alaska achieves statehood


along with Hawaii. environmental objections helped prevent two major development projects: The rampart dam of the Yukon and Project Chariot (harbor created with five controlled nuclear explosions)

Contraceptive pills created and perfected


reliable separation of sex from procreation; John Rock perfected contraception. fueled feminist movement and the "sexual revolution" that encouraged a transformed approach to sexuality. birth rates fell sharply as a result.

Silent Spring published


drew widespread attention to environmental degradation. criticized indiscriminate use of herbicides and pesticides. targeted DDT. favored more systematic approach to eradication of malarial mosquitoes.

Free Speech Movement at Berkeley


demonstration on behalf of the civil rights movement, against the war in Vietnam, for women's liberation and for gay liberation

Unsafe at any Speed published


Ralph Nader begins concept of consumer advocacy through his book against GM

Science and Survival published


deplored misuse of science by corporations and national defense institutions and their secrecy.

Discovery of oil in Alaska


second rush to Alaska. first oil crisis (1973) made tapping of oil reserves especially attractive. shipping route for oil, the trans-Alaska pipeline. faced acute environmental criticism.

The Population Bomb published


published by Paul Ehrlich; overpopulation alarms culminated with this book; coincided with papal encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (rejected the majority report on the subject, embracing a minority report maintaining the status quo)

Photographs of Earth from space


emphasized solitude and fragility of world; fueled environmentalist movement which was blend of radical and conservative impulses: anti-materialist, critical of corporate America, distrust of government, less divisive because applies to all

"Tragedy of the Commons" written


written by Garret Hardin. argued that we are subject to perverse and self-destructive actions in the environment.

EPA created


created by Congress and began work on 1/1/1971

First Earth Day


first major event of environmentalist movement; organized by Gaylord Nelson and Dennis Hayes. most Americans regarded it as a harmonious and sensible event. Nixon spoke out for environmental legislation in his state of the union the same year.

Criticism of environmentalism


began on political left but migrated to the right. Students for a Democratic Society, Black Panthers, and Democratic Socialists all criticized the movement on Earth Day (thought of it as a distraction from more important issues of poverty racism and war) Goldwater (senator) feared centralization as brake on material development; Sagebrush rebels saw it as government tyranny

Watergate Scandal


Buffalo Creek flood


wiped out an entire town in West Virginia

Ban on DDT


Environmental Defense Fund specialized in environmental litigation and led campaign to ban DDT

Rowland and Molina show that CFCs break down ozone


free chlorine atoms reacted with ozone to break it down. the period of 80s and 90s was of abstract and less visible environmental concerns.

Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1977


prohibited further permitting for companies with outstanding environmental violations to strip mine. land rights, negotiated decades earlier, didn't hold companies responsible for damage done. limited effectiveness

UMW strike

1977 - 1978

impeded President Carters attempts to replace imported oil with domestic coal

Three Mile Island


Despite whistleblowers alarming public in mid and late 70s, didn't prevent disaster of Three Mile Island. Destroyed mystique of safe, cheap, nuclear power.

Risk and Culture published


showed how different societies regarded different kinds of risks as acceptable or intolerable.

Nirenberg Committee


argued that acid rain was serious and dangerous. deaths of red spruce trees, fish kills, and high acidity levels in mountain lakes.

Takings is published


written by Richard Epstein, explored the legal and equity consequences of environmental legislation. western antagonism to environmentalists was linked to perception that they were destroying employment opportunities in forestry and mining.



Julian Simon vs. Ehrlich


simon argued the counter-instinctual position that natural resources were becoming more plentiful, not more scarce.described population as the "ultimate resource" and celebrated its growth.

Montreal Protocol


specified phasing out of CFCs worldwide, which led to diminution of problem. replaced by HFCs. successful international cooperation because companies making CFCs could switch easily to making HFCs

global warming hypoth comes before congress


James Hansen asserted global warming hypothesis before Congress. accurate measurement over the whole earth's surface is extremely difficult as is seasonal variation and "noise". computer programs gained sophistication.

Exxon Valdez wreck


Created one of the worst pollution crises in american history. massive clean up may have caused more harm than good

National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program


concluded that was real but minor problem. most acidified lakes were in Florida which was not downwind of any industry. importance of local factors. but Congress had instituted cap and trade program to reduce emissions in 1990 revisions to the Clean Air Act.

Kyoto Protocol


world's industrial nations signed the kyoto protocol; pledged a reduction in greenhouse gases. Gore became outspoken maximalist. skeptics include Fred Singer, Richard Lindzen and Bjorn Lomborg.

TVA's kingston fossil plant


released 1.1 billion gallons of fly ash which damaged homes and flowed into waterways.


See how events correlate with each president

Grover Cleveland

1885 - 1889

Harrison's presidency

1889 - 1893

Grover Cleveland

1893 - 1897

Teddy Roosevelt as President

1901 - 1909

Huge help to the cause of forest conservation. Before presidency, was a Dakota rancher. created five new National Parks and the Antiquities Act after touring Yosemite with Muir.

Herbert Hoover

1928 - 1932

nations hero for philanthropic work during and after WWI, but as president, blamed for the Great Depression

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

1933 - 1945

Wars and Movements

See context of various events

Farmers' Golden Age

1913 - 1920

WWI and 1920s stimulated food production and plow-up of Plains. Feeding Europe and America in times of abundant rainfall.

World War I

1914 - 1918

Largest conflict to happen in the world. US joined allied forces in 1917.

The Dust Bowl

1933 - 1936

Soil dried, pulverized into dust so that wind blew dust everywhere. in the western Great Plains, in part a natural disaster and in part human induced. massive dust storms that forced people to migrate to other parts of US. Journalists and New Deal photographers charted migration of farmers.

The New Deal

1933 - 1936

series of economic programs in response to Great Depression. Focused on 3 Rs: That is, Relief for the unemployed and poor; Recovery of the economy to normal levels; and Reform of the financial system to prevent a repeat depression

World War II

1939 - 1945

In the US, new era of rainfall and demand, boosted the economy.