​A month-by-month cavalcade of eco-bloopers: Peter Dykstra

From a "crappy" tour bus incident to laid off canaries, here are 12 top environmental gaffes.

Think a river running with whiskey sounds fun? Would you like to get up close and personal with the Dave Matthews Band?

This roundup may make you think again.


January 23, 2014

In one of the most calamitous whiskey spills ever recorded, a liquor warehouse is fined the equivalent of nearly $20,000 for spilling 1,320 gallons of scotch into the Ayr River in Catrine, Scotland. A delivery truck erroneously tried to transfer the whiskey to a storage tank that was already full, and the overflow spilled into the river. A whiskey spill containment system failed to prevent the tragedy.

February 10, 1935

The New York Times publishes a story that helped promote what may be the original "urban legend." According to the newspaper of record, a group of boys shoveling snow into a storm sewer spotted a seven-foot alligator. Though the rumors persist, alligators do not live in New York City's sewer system.

March 8, 2008

Monty Python meets mammalian biology: The BBC reports that a castle in Doune, Scotland, featured in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail has become a field lab for studying migratory bats. A small bat called a pipistrelle was discovered spending its winters in the castle where a foul-mouthed French soldier (John Cleese) once taunted King Arthur and his court.

April 1, 2000

The Environmental Defense Fund, or EDF, informed its members of its formal name change. The respected group will heretofore be known merely as Environmental Defense, or ED. The group's new acronym gets a massive, not-entirely-helpful, PR push from the emergence of Viagra, the pharmaceutical solution to the other kind of ED.

ED maintains its selection for eight years, then switches back to EDF.

May 4, 2012

The Heartland Institute launched the first of a series of billboards likening advocates of climate change action to villains like the Unabomber, Charles Manson, and Osama bin Laden. The electronic billboard alongside a Chicago freeway is taken down a few hours later after an uproar that saw Heartland supporters, funders, and staffers flee the group.

June 22, 1913

The New York Times reported on an ambitious scheme to make the area's waterways into an electricity-generating colossus. Enormous dams would harness the five-to-seven-foot tides of New York Harbor and Long Island Sound, not only freeing the region from dependence on coal, but also eliminating "the unsightly and insanitary marshes and tide flats" around the city.

July 18, 2011

After making a name for himself by denying the existence of climate change, Lord Christopher Monckton is himself denied: The House of Lords sent Monckton an unprecedented "cease and desist" letter, asking him to stop claiming to be a member of the UK's Upper House.

August 8, 2004

While many people would love to get close to a rock band, this was probably not what 100 tourists on a Chicago River boat had in mind. A tour bus driver for the Dave Matthews Band unloaded the bus's sewage tank while passing over the steel-mesh Kinzie Avenue bridge and onto the sightseeing boat below. The driver got probation, and the band paid $100,000 to local charities and another $200,000 to settle a civil lawsuit.

September 2, 2005

U.S. President George W. Bush signed a $10.5 billion emergency aid package to aid in the recovery of Hurricane Katrina. Bush visited the region and said Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown is doing a "heck of a job" leading the recovery effort.

October 1, 2010

Advocates of action on climate change get a high-profile, but less-than-welcome, endorsement. In an audiotaped speech, Osama bin Laden said "the huge climate change is affecting our (Islamic) nation and is causing great catastrophes throughout the Islamic world."

November 14, 2003

The man largely responsible for protecting endangered species in the U.S., Assistant Interior Secretary Craig Manson, offered an interesting perspective on his job: "If we are saying that the loss of species in and of itself is inherently bad—I don't think we know enough about how the world works to say that."

December 30, 1986

In what is almost certainly the largest canary layoff in history, the last 200 canaries on duty in British and Welsh coal mines are replaced by electronic gas monitors.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher Environmental Health Sciences.

Banner photo credit: The Heartland Institute

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