A history of environmental disasters (Day After Blog Action Day)

Blog Action Day, 2007: We’re writing about environmental issues.

Blog Action Day 2007

Each January 1 I reflect on one of many forgotten environmental disasters, because it’s a focus of television coverage. Oh, the disaster itself isn’t covered — most often it’s not even mentioned — but it’s there if you know anything at all about it.

The Tournament of Roses Parade.

With the Bowl Championship Series game in town, and thousands of tourists out to see the parade, the games, and other festivities, no one really wants to talk about the why of the Rose Bowl, and the Rose Parade.

But once upon a time, under the sunny skies of southern California, Pasadena hosted a flower industry. Cut flowers were the produce. The Los Angeles Basin around Pasadena produced $1 billion in cut flowers annually by the late 1940s. Partly to promote that industry, local civic movers pushed a festival named to celebrate the flowers, to promote them, to feed local industry. The shtick was this: Parade floats had to be decorated exclusively with flowers and flower petals. What better way to showcase the local agricultural miracle?

Nearly 60 years later, I’ll wager less than 0.1% of the flowers used in the parade come from the Los Angeles Basin.

Air pollution forced the flower growers to move. Air pollution mottled the petals of the roses, browned the daisies, and otherwise spoiled blossoms. The greenhouses, the fields, the entire industry left the area. And today, all that is left is the parade and football game. Parade floats are decorated with flowers imported from Venezuela, Israel, Europe, Hawaii, Mexico, South America and Asia.

And so it goes. Significant upheavals in human activities, prompted by environmental goofs by humans, get shuffled out of the history books, out of our collective consciousness — and as Santayana warned, we repeat them, over and over. Los Angeles is not the only city ever to have suffered from air pollution — there were killer fogs in London and Pennsylvania within a decade after World War II. Surely people learned, no?

Consider Mexico City today. Consider Beijing today.

So I just want to list some environmental disasters that we would be better off, if we remembered them and considered how to avoid them in the future, rather than forget them and be doomed to repeat them.

(I reserve the right to post links and edit this list to add to it, as I find additional information, and as readers may add information in comments.)

Environmental disasters you should know

It’s not an exhaustive list by any means — I wager some of these are new to most readers. I wager some of you can provide better information, and other disasters that I, perhaps, have forgotten. Please, inform us.

10 Responses to A history of environmental disasters (Day After Blog Action Day)

  1. Thank you for taking part in Blog Action Day.

    Unfortunately, I did not participate.

    However, I wrote a belated post about deforestation in Brazil. As a real estate agent in Minneapolis, I see a lot of people using a product in luxury homes that is very destructive to rainforests, and causes untold human suffering. Check out this post, please:

    Brazilian Teak, Slave Labor, Luxury Homes, and the Destruction of the Rainforest.

    You can find this post at:

    I realize I made this url too long. If it got cut off in the comment form, you can easily find it at:

    Anything you can do to share this link or help promote awareness of this issue will be greatly appreciated. Most luxury home owners in Minnesota are unaware of the environmental and human cost of these products. Most Brazilian teak found in Minneapolis homes did not come from legal sources. I feel sort of ill every time I walk into a home that has Brazilian teak floors.


  2. Ed Darrell says:

    (Where is the trackback function?)


  3. […] Timpanogos listed some historical events that can be seen through a lens of environmental degradation. […]


  4. bernarda says:

    Sorry, I guess I made a mistake. The following I hope is good.



  5. Ed Darrell says:

    Bernarda, the link posted comes back to this thread — do we have a computer misdirection here? Please advise.


  6. […] came across this post – A history of environmental disasters (Day After Blog Action Day) – and thought it was worth sharing. I hope you find it interesting too and take the time to read […]


  7. This is really a terrific & scary list when you just think about it…
    Incredible post for us to remember.



  8. bernarda says:

    There are so many environmental disasters. Apparently the Romans decimated wild animals, particularly lions, around the entire Mediterranean area, especially Europe.

    The Greco-Roman city Ephesus lost its harbor due to the silting up of its harbor by the Cayster River because of deforestation, probably. That may have happened to other cities as well.

    The great Mayan cities disappeared apparently because environmental degradation or climate change.

    Ireland was once covered by forests, but deforestation took place over centuries and was completed in the 17th century by the English cutting what was left for ship and building construction.

    In closer times, there has been the intentional drying up of Lake Tulare in Central California and the reduction of Lake Owens and others in Eastern California to supply water to the Los Angeles Basin desert.

    Both are tragedies. Lake Tulare was the largest lake in the west.

    Here is a site that gives a timeline of environmental problems. Not complete, but extensive.



  9. Julaine says:

    excellent post! thanks for the information and the environmental histotry lesson –


  10. Jonathan says:

    Well, here’s one more thing you can do…and it is not a disaster, but it may help us avoid one…

    I’m working with a coalition to make sure Congress sends the president a strong energy bill with meaningful changes for our environment and planet. This legislation would be a monumental step toward stopping global warming. Please go to http://www.energybill2007.us and sign the petition.

    Congress finally has a chance to pass meaningful energy legislation. The bill they are about to pass includes the best fuel economy standards ever (35 mpg by 2020) and a renewable electricity standard (15% by 2020) that guarantees the growth of renewable, clean energy. But there is a chance these two key advances won’t make it through to the final bill. This is our chance for real progress, don’t let Congress back down!


Please play nice in the Bathtub -- splash no soap in anyone's eyes. While your e-mail will not show with comments, note that it is our policy not to allow false e-mail addresses. Comments with non-working e-mail addresses may be deleted.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: