The Worst Eco-Crimes in Recent Years

by tylercook on November 12, 2013

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Humans are responsible for the most atrocious crimes against the environment. Unfortunately for nature, it doesn’t really have legal representation — no offense Environmental Defense Fund — but it certainly can win in the court of public opinion. Understanding more about the environmental disasters of the past may help prevent them in the future, and with that in mind, what follows is a list of some of the worst manmade environmental catastrophes in history.


Despite the numerous devastating accidents associated with nuclear power, the technology has the potential to be a clean energy source. The ferocity of opinions on both the pro and con side of nuclear energy is still raging, thanks in large part to Chernobyl and Three-mile island.

Chernobyl was the name of a nuclear power plant in Ukraine that exploded in April 1986, releasing tons of radiation into the atmosphere. The fallout was allegedly worse than the nuclear bombs dropped by the US in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Thousands of cancer diagnoses have been linked to the meltdown, and a 20-mile radius surrounding the area remains off-limits.

The Three-Mile Island meltdown was much less catastrophic, but could have been as environmentally damaging as Chernobyl. The reactor, located in Harrisburg, PA, only partially melted down and there have been no fatalities linked directly to the incident. Nonetheless, it is often cited as the main reason why nuclear power seems to be a non-starter in American politics and why no new reactors have been built in the United States over the last 30 years.


The most recent environmental catastrophe to be burned into the conscience of America, particularly the Gulf States, is the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster. During production drilling, a massive explosion killed 11 workers and spilled an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the coast. It is believed to be the largest accidental oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

Two other marine oil accidents are also notable for their considerable environmental damage: the Exxon Valdez and the Amoco Cadiz. The former occurred in the waters of Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989, when the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground on a reef and spilled nearly 350,000 barrels of oil. The latter occurred off the coast of France, when the Amoco Cadiz ran aground and spilled roughly 1.6 million barrels of oil. Both incidents resulted in catastrophic losses of marine life.

The Kuwaiti Oil Fires are also widely considered to be one of the worst environmental disasters in history. In 1991, with the Persian Gulf War all but lost, Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein gave orders to set Kuwaiti oil wells ablaze to prevent other people from using them. The fires burned for nearly seven months and the Persian Gulf was “awash in poisonous smoke, soot and ash.”

Big Business and Politics

The final group of disasters stem from human incompetence or indifference. The Minimata and Love Canal disasters show the worst side of corporate malfeasance. The former occurred in the Japanese town of Minimata, where the Chisso Corporation was found guilty of poisoning residents after dumping its industrial wastewater in Minamata Bay. “Thousands” of residents have since suffered and died from “Minimata Disease.”

The Love Canal disaster took place in upstate New York in the 1940s, when Hooker Chemical buried 21,000 tons of toxic waste, which eventually affected residents of nearby Love Canal in the form of cancers, birth defects, and various other maladies. By 1978, the issue made international news and the federal government was forced to evacuate the area.


Along with eco-crimes, Lawrence Jamison writes on conservation techniques, environmental science, recycling, preservation, reused goods, plastic tanks, water heaters, off-the-grid living, storage tanks and other related matters.




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