Chico MendesDec. 22, 1912:  Lady Bird Johnson, wife of U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, is born in Karnack, Texas.  While her husband served as president, Lady Bird made highway beautification  a national issue, inspiring state and federal measures to limit roadside billboards and promote the planting of wildflowers.  

Dec. 22, 1958: Alarmed by reports of drifting radiation from U.S. nuclear weapons tests, a citizens’ group launched a campaign to collect 50,000 baby teeth to measure levels of radioactive Strontium 90.  The results helped the drive to end atmospheric nuke tests.

Dec. 22, 1988:  Chico Mendes (at right, in July 1988), leader of the rubber tappers’ union in Brazil and a staunch opponent of deforestation, is murdered near his home.

Dec. 22, 2008:  A retaining wall at the Tennessee Valley Authority coal-burning power plant gives way, dumping million of gallons of coal ash residue into local waterways.  Coal ash waste, normally stored onsite at coal-burning power plants, contains unburned toxins like cadmium.   The coal sludge inundated waterways near the Kingston plant and damaged 15 homes.

Dec. 22, 2010:  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service upheld a 2008 ruling that polar bears deserved protection as a “threatened” species, but rejected a petition to list the bears as “endangered.”  The increased protection was supported by environmentalists, citing decline in ice cover in the bears’ Arctic habitat.  But the “endangered” listing would have jeopardized oil and gas drilling proposals in the Arctic.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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

December 22
Chico Mendes is murdered, coal ash floods local waterways in Tennessee, and polar bears remain a threatened species.