Three Gorges DamDec. 11, 1948:  Swiss scientist Paul Muller is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering the insect-killing properties of DDT.  Muller made his discovery in 1939, and by the middle of World War II, DDT was in widespread use in tropical battlefields throughout the Pacific.  While credited with saving lives and curbing malaria, DDT is also found to kill birds as well as insects. It is banned in the U.S. in 1972.

Dec. 11, 1980:  In response to the scandals at Love Canal, New York and elsewhere, the  Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), a.k.a. Superfund, is enacted by the U.S. Congress.  Government and private investigations would later slam Superfund for spending too much money on stalled litigation, and for failing to clean up many of the worst American toxic waste sites.

Dec. 11, 1989:  A Canadian Navy warship fires warning shots at a U.S. fishing boat after the two vessels collide.   The Concordia, a scalloper, was two and a half miles into waters reserved for Canadian boats in Georges Bank, the fishing grounds off the Massachusetts coast, according to the crew of the Canadian destroyer Saguenay. The two boats bumped after the Saguenay demanded to board the fishing vessel.

Dec. 11, 1997:  The Kyoto Protocol is adopted. The international treaty calls for industrialized nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions through the year 2012. The treaty takes effect in 2005, but is never fully effective without participation from the U.S., who signed, but refused to ratify, the treaty.

Dec.11, 2010:  State-run media in China report the completion of a six-week-long cleanup project at the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric project (at right).  Ten of thousands of workers had removed 78,000 tons of debris that had collected behind the dam, so thick in some places that the news report said it was possible to walk on the surface of the Yangtze river in some places.

Dec. 11, 2011:  The 16,000 delegates to the U.N.’s Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa agree to make an agreement to limit greenhouse gases.  Someday.   The year 2020 is the deadline.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This feature is compiled by Peter Dykstra, an MNN contributor and publisher of Environmental Health News and The Daily Climate.