Edmund HillaryJan. 20, 1958: Two teams of explorers attempting a first-ever trek on foot across Antarctic meet at the South Pole. Sir Edmund Hillary (at right, 1963), the New Zealander who led the first ascent on Mount Everest five years earlier, meets his British counterpart, Dr. Vivian "Bunny" Fuchs.

Jan. 20, 1971: Motown recording legend Marvin Gaye releases the song "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)." One of the first hit songs to embrace the environmental cause asks "What about this overcrowded land? How much more abuse from Man can she stand?"

Jan. 20, 1981: James G. Watt becomes secretary of Interior. Watt embarks on an aggressive campaign to limit the Endangered Species Act and expand oil and gas drilling on public lands and off America’s shores. After two and a half years as a lightning rod for criticism, Watt is forced to resign after telling an inappropriate joke.

Photo: Associated Press

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

January 20
Two teams reach the South Pole and a song about the environment is released.