Henry David ThoreauMay 6, 1862: Nature writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau (at right) dies at age 44. His last words are reported to be "Now comes smooth sailing." Shortly before his death, Thoreau is asked by his aunt, "Have you made your peace with God?" His answer: "I did not know that we had ever quarreled."

May 6, 1940:  A blockbuster novel puts a human face on the misery caused by poor farming practices in the American heartland of the 1930s.  On this day, John Steinbeck’s "The Grapes of Wrath" wins the Pulitzer Prize for Literature.

May 6, 2009: The U.N.'s World Health Organization announces an initiative by 40 nations to combat malaria without the use of DDT. While the pesticide has long been banned in many industrialized nations, it is still in widespread use in the developing world, creating a major dilemma: DDT is credited with reducing malaria deaths, but it is also blamed for widespread death and endangerment of wildlife, and is a potent carcinogen in humans.

May 6, 2012:  The Chicago Tribune launches a major investigative series on flame retardant chemicals.  Touted by industry as life-savers, the chemicals may actually create more hazards than they prevent.  Reporters Patricia Callahan, Sam Roe and Michael Hawthorne also accuse flame retardant manufacturers of mounting a Big Tobacco-like political effort to block regulation.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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