By 1990, at least 900 million people in urban
areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America were living in poverty
Source: UNEP, Topham Picturepoint
Catching the scientific world as well as policy makers
by surprise, measurements by British researchers of the size of the ozone
hole were first reported in 1985 (Farnham, Gardiner and Shanklin 1985).
The Global 2000 report recognized for the first time that species extinction
was threatening biodiversity as an essential component of the Earth's
ecosystems (US Government 1980). As the interdependence of environment
and development became increasingly clear, the United Nations General
Assembly adopted the World Charter for Nature, bringing attention to the
intrinsic value of species and ecosystems (UN 1982).
Besides new discoveries, the 1980s also saw a range of catastrophic events
that left a permanent mark both on the environment and on the understanding
of its connection to human health. In 1984, a leak from a Union Carbide
plant left 3 000 people dead and 20 000 injured in Bhopal, India (Diamond
1985). The same year, up to 1 million people starved to death in Ethiopia.
In 1986, the world's worst nuclear accident happened as a reactor at the
Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in the Ukrainian Republic of the
Soviet Union. The 1989 spill of 50 million litres of oil from the Exxon
Valdez supertanker into Alaska's Prince William Sound demonstrated that
no area, however remote and 'pristine', is safe from the impact of human