50 years of sustainable development, 1962-2012
As the Earth Summit in Rio+20 kicks off, the International Institute of Sustainable Development has compiled a comprehensive timeline detailing the past 50 years for sustainable development
Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, brings together research on toxicology, ecology and epidemiology to suggest that agricultural pesticides are building to catastrophic levels, linked to damage to animal species and human health.
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is formed to pursue legal solutions to environmental damage. The EDF goes to court to stop the Suffolk County Mosquito Control Commission from spraying DDT on Long Island’s marshes. www.environmentaldefense.org
Biosphere. Intergovernmental Conference for Rational Use and Conservation of the Biosphere (UNESCO) is held; early discussions occur on the concept of ecologically sustainable development.
Paul Ehrlich publishes The Population Bomb, on the connection between human population, resource exploitation and the environment.
Friends of the Earth forms as an advocacy organization dedicated to the prevention of environmental degradation, the preservation of diversity and the role of citizens in decision-making. www.foe.org
Partners in Development and IDRC (1970). Report of the Commission on International Development. This is the first of the international commissions to consider a new approach to development, focused on research and knowledge in the South. The report leads to the formation of Canada’s International Development Research Centre. www.idrc.ca
Cuyahoga River, Ohio, United States catches on fire, with the cause attributed to pollution. This event brings political attention to the need for water pollution control policy and action, and leads to the Clean Water Act, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency—one of the first national departments of the environment in the world.
National Environmental Policy Act is passed in the United States, making it one of the first countries to establish a national legislative framework to protect the environment. The law sets the basis for environmental impact assessment in the world.
Natural Resources Defense Council forms with a staff of lawyers and scientists to push for comprehensive U.S. environmental policy. www.nrdc.org
First Earth Day held as a national teach-in on the environment. An estimated 20 million people participate in peaceful demonstrations across the United States. www.earthday.net
Greenpeace starts in Canada and launches an aggressive agenda to stop environmental damage through civil protests and non-violent interference. www.greenpeace.org
International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) established in the United Kingdom to seek ways for countries to make economic progress without destroying the environmental resource base. www.iied.org
Polluter pays principle. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Council says those causing pollution should pay the resulting costs.
Founex Report is prepared by a panel of experts calling for the integration of environment and development strategies.
René Dubos and Barbara Ward write Only One Earth, which sounds an urgent alarm about the impact of human activity on the biosphere, but expresses optimism that shared concern for the planet could lead humankind to create a common future.
Environnement et Développement du Tiers-Monde (ENDA) is established in Senegal, in 1978 becoming an international NGO concerned with empowering local peoples, eliminating poverty, and promoting southern research and training for sustainable development. www.enda.sn