Learning from Green’s History

Speaking of history, have you ever wondered how the green movement came to being? An article from ICIS Chemical Business(the magazine I work for) examined the rise of green consciousnessduring the 1960s triggered by Rachel Carson’s 1962 bestselling book Silent Spring.

Thebook documented the effect of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) onwildlife, particularly birds, and also attacked the way in which theclaims made by the chemical industry were accepted uncritically bypublic officials.

1972 saw the first international conference onthe environment convened by the United Nations in Stockholm, Sweden,while in the 1980s saw increased in community-based organizations.

The 1990s saw a switch in chemical safety thinking and regulation from local or national, to international scope.

Another interesting history (shamelessly promoting my materials as usual), is the green blogger’s article on the history of fats and oils and how their use in chemicals is once again being developed.

Backin the mid-1850s, marine oils (whale oil and sperm whale oil inparticular) were at the top of their peaks as raw materials for burningoil and lubricants for machineries. These applications along with theuse of animal fats (tallow) for candles, were replaced by petroleum oilin the late 1800s.

The golden age of fats and oils was around 1935 to 1940 when development for their use for industrialapplications soared. An interesting history tidbit was during World WarII when housewives collect used cooking fats and sold them to localmeat dealers for use in explosives and artillery.

One pound of fat was said to contain enough glycerin to make a pound of black powder, enough for six 75mm shells.

Whilewriting this article, one major thought occurred to me. Without therise of petroleum industry in the late 1800s, those poor marine animalsespecially whales and walrus would probably be extinct by now!

Last but not the least is this article from the Huffington Post analyzingthe current outcries and predicted doomsday scenarios coming fromanti-climate change policies (especially the auto industry back then).

Accordingto Donald Cohen and Peter Dreier of the Center on Policy Initiatives,history had seen that despite fear mongering from industry resistersand lobbyists, enacted policies targeting reduced pollution andstronger environmental standards had been succesful and did not producetremendous loss to the industry and community that were anticipated.

Here’s what the newly installed EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has to say for those who cried Wolf:


“Ifyou look at the history of environmental laws in this country, ” sheexplained, “every time … the lobbyists say, ‘Oh, this will shut downthe American economy. Every last one of you will lose jobs.’ It’salways these overblown, doomsday scenarios that overlook … the factthat you can indeed build an economy towards green energy.”



Leave a Reply