The Environment Chronicle

Notable environmental events

  1. The National Park Service is an agency of the United States federal government that manages all U.S. national parks, many American national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations. The NPS is charged with a dual role of preserving the ecological and historical integrity of the places entrusted to its management while also making them available and accessible for public use and enjoyment. It was created on 25 August 1916 by Congress through the National Park Service Organic Act. The National Park Service is celebrating its centennial in 2016.

  2. Frank Sherwood Rowland, Nobel Prize-winning chemist for showing that chlorofluorocarbons could destroy the Earth’s ozone layer, died on 10 March, 2012. He was 84.

  3. Wangari Maathai died on 25 September 2011, in Nairobi, Kenia. She was a Kenyan environmental and political activist. In 1977 she founded 'The Green Belt Movement', the most important and successful reforestation project in Africa. In 1986, she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award and she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work as an environmentalist and women’s rights activist.

  4. The atomic pile in Obrigheim has been shut down after 37 years of production time. Following Mühleim-Kärlich (2000) and Stade (2003) this is the third nuclear power plant that has been taken off the grid in continuation of the nuclear energy phase-out in Germany. Out of the 49 initially planned and 20 accredited plants 17 are still running.

  5. Wangari Maathai rose to prominence fighting for those most easily marginalised in Africa - poor women. The first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize was praised by the awarding committee as "a source of inspiration for everyone in Africa fighting for sustainable development, democracy and peace". A pioneering academic, her role as an environmental campaigner began after she planted some trees in her back garden. This inspired her in 1977 to form an organisation - primarily of women - known as the Green Belt Movement aiming to curtail the devastating effects of deforestation and desertification. Her desire was to produce sustainable wood for fuel use as well as combating soil erosion. Her campaign to mobilise poor women to plant some 30 million trees has been copied by other countries.

  6. The Stade nuclear power plant had been in operation since 1972, making it Germany's second-oldest electricity-generating reactor after Obrigheim which went on line in 1968. Producing 660 megawatts of electricity Stade was the country's largest nuclear power plant based on a pressurized water reactor. Stade is the second nuclear power plant to be taken off the grid, a further step in the implementation of nuclear energy phase-out policy adopted in Germany three-and-a-half years ago.

  7. In Germany, all the three months of summer 2003 have been extremely warm and very dry and sunny. The country's mean air temperature of June and August was the highest on record starting in 1901. The air temperature of July exceeded the mean value of the international climate reference period 1961-1990. The mean day temperature of 19.6 °C exceeded the reference value by 3.4 degrees.

  8. More than fourteen years after the disaster, the last of the atomic reactors has been taken off the grid in Chernobyl. However, innumerous landfills full of radiated materials are still remaining together with the open question, how and when the ramshackle reactor blocks themselves will be disposed.

  9. The German Government has reached an historic agreement with energy companies for the gradual closing down of the country's 19 nuclear power stations. It means that Germany has become the first leading economic power officially to announce its intention to phase out the use of nuclear energy. Nuclear power plants would be shut down after a lifespan of 32 years. That means Germany's last nuclear plant could go off-line in about 20 years.

  10. 135,968 Berlin citizens sign BUND's petition against the Hamburg-Berlin monorail (Transrapid). With 122,910 valid signatures, the petition was a success, as the project has been dropped for political reasons.

  11. BUNDjugend, together with 135,000 schoolchildren, attempted to achieve the German government's 7 year climate targets within 7 months. The target and activities were devised by the Institute for Environmental Issues. The SPD and the Green Party also entered the challenge after the general election. BUNDjugend and the schoolchildren succeeded in showing that they could, without spending money, and against the resistance of other schoolchildren, teachers and the school board, make 10% energy savings. Their success was celebrated with a party promised by the government.

  12. The independent commission of experts presents the environment ministry with the draft of an environmental book of law.

  13. Environmental protection was made a formal goal of the European Union in the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam.

  14. Greenpeace members from Europe and the USA unfurl a banner on Tian an Men Square in Beijing, reading "Stop all atomic testing, stop atomic testing in China". They are arrested, interrogated and deported.

  15. Shell announces that it will not, after all, sink the defunct oil platform Brent Spar. Prominent artists, politicians of all parties and the Church in Germany had condemned Shell's plans. The multinational ignored the criticism, until a boycott of petrol stations forced it to give way. The Brent Spar remained at anchor in a Norwegian bay until the issue was resolved: the platform was cleaned up, its support cut into rings and dismantled completely. The rings were used to build a quay in the harbour near Stavanger in Norway.

  16. Despite worldwide protests, France restarts its atomic testing on Moruroa. When a Greenpeace ship enters the 12 mile exclusion zone, it is entered by French marines and confiscated. The ship's instruments are destroyed.

  17. During the Berlin Climate Conference, Greenpeace climbers occupy a chimney stack at an RWE coal-fired power station. An attempt to remove them fails. The pictures are broadcast live to the Conference.

  18. Greenpeace documents show that Russia has repeatedly broken the Moratorium on dumping atomic waste at sea, in force since 1983.

  19. Despite a ban, Norway still intends to harpoon whales. Greenpeace calls for a boycott of Norwegian products. Companies cancel contracts worth $45 million - many times the revenue from whaling.

  20. Greenpeace returns toxic waste from Rumania to Germany. To save face, the German government then recalls 425 t of German-produced pesticide waste.

  21. The FEA's plans provide for the first time for placing sustainability at the heart of domestic financial policy, using fiscal instruments.

  22. The European Union starts its fifth Environmental Action Programme. Its goals include supporting eco-labels, reducing fuel consumption (and pollutant emissions), transport, developing rural areas and supporting responsible tourism.

  23. Greenpeace pursues the Japanese freighter "Akatsuki Maru", laden with 1.7 t plutonium, by ship and plane on its widely condemned journey from Cherbourg to Japan.

  24. Greenpeace takes one of its ships to the Kara Sea near Novaia Semlya, where atomic waste such as submarine atomic reactors is being sunk. The ship is fired upon and towed away by Russian marines. President Yeltsin promises a study of radiation in the frozen sea.

  25. The environment ministry sets up an independent commission to devise an environmental statute book.

  26. "Greenfreeze", the first CFC-free refrigerator, is presented to the world. It was developed and produced in cooperation between a scientist Hans Preisendans and the Saxon company dkk Scharfenstein (now Foron). The appliance uses natural gases (propane and butane) as coolants, which contributes to neither ozone depletion nor the greenhouse effect.

  27. In Bremen and Dover, activists prevent the transport of atomic waste to the British reprocessing plant in Sellafield. The environment ministers of the Länder are presented with radioactively contaminated sand.

  28. Starting in May Greenpeace frequently prevents the export of toxic waste from Germany to Rumania. Illegally stored waste in Rumania is returned to Germany.

  29. In Dordrecht in Holland, Greenpeace blocks track belonging to the world's largest producer of CFCs, DuPont.

  30. The Rainbow Warrior II makes its debut against French atomic testing. Shortly afterwards, President Mitterand abandons the tests.

  31. Expanding the Havel, Project 17 of the German Reunification Transport Projects, is part of 280 km of river and canal belonging to the planned Federal Waterway from Hanover to Berlin. The new ships which are to use the waterway are as large as the Rhine vessels. The Havel would need to be dug out to twice its current depth of 2 m, its banks extended and levelled. An action group against the project was formed on the initiative of BUND's working group on the Havel. It aims to prevent the loss of unique riverside landscapes and the overcapacity which would ensue, as three rail lines and a six-lane motorway will also be built in parallel.

  32. The German parliament authorises many major "reunification projects", aimed at providing the New Länder with Western standards of infrastructure. Alongside transport links between road, rail and waterways, projects plan the Transrapid monorail and creating a Federal Waterway.

  33. The BUND awards its first Poisoned figleaf, an award for companies who use pseudo-environmental arguments to fool customers.

  34. During talks with Greenpeace, representatives of Hoechst announce an end to their use of CFCs and any substitutes containing chlorine.

  35. In the Belgian harbour of Dunkirchen, Greenpeace succeeds in blocking a cargo of fuel rods from Germany's Unterweser nuclear power station, bound for the British reprocessing plant at Sellafield, for 18 hours.

  36. Greenpeace publishes the world's first magazine printed on chlorine-free paper: "Das Plagiat", an exact copy of the German current affairs magazine "Der Spiegel". The latter promptly copies its plagiariser and appears on chlorine free paper for the first time in November 1992. This represents the breakthrough for chlorine-free paper, which gradually becomes a printing standard.

  37. The incinerator ship "Vulcanus II" leaves Antwerp on its final journey, before the global ban on high sea incineration of toxic waste comes into force.

  38. To protest against Russian atomic tests on Novaia Semlya, Greenpeace sails into the arctic ice. The army storms the ship and seizes its crew. After four days of international protest, both are released again.

  39. The Greenpeace ship Beluga begins a two-month journey along the Elbe, to mount protests against river polluters in both West and East Germany.

  40. In the South Pacific, the Rainbow Warrior prevents Japanese and Taiwanese trawler fleets from casting their mile-long "wall of death". In the Summer, Japan announces an end to dragnet fishing in the South Pacific.