Timeline of the Environmental Movement and Eco-Paganism


Beginning of the Anthropocene.


A. Irving Hallowell coins the term “other than human beings” to describe the understanding by the Ojibwa people he studied that many more things could be a person for them than for most Westerners. The phrase is later adopted by many neo-animists.

World human population reaches 3 billion.


Carson Silent Spring 1000Rachel Carson, the “mother of the environmental movement” publishes Silent Spring [right], in which she calls for balance between human needs and the needs of the environment. The book is credited with starting the global ecological movement.

Tim (Otter/Oberon) Zell founds the Church of All Worlds (CAW) in Missouri, a Neo-Pagan religious organization modeled after the fictional organization in the novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, including polyamory, sacraments (“Never Thirst”; water-sharing), immanent divinity (“Thou art God”), and pantheism (“all that groks is God”). The group originally derived its ideas from Ayn Rand and Heinlein, but later became more clearly Neo-Pagan.



Druid circle at Carleton College

The Reformed Druids of North America begins as a protest against a requirement that students at Carleton College [right], in Minnesota, attend religious services. Since any religious service would count, some students, including Robert Larson, started RDNA as a humorous way to test the system. The founders were Jewish, Christian and agnostic and did not intend to start a new religion. However, it subsequently evolves into one and spreads.

Amendment to the Clean Air Act.

Robert Greenway coins the term “psycho-ecology” (which later becomes “ecopsychology“).

John Carver, assistant secretary to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which supervises the National Park Service, likened the Park Service to the Hitler Youth Movement. Later, conservatives came to label environmental activism as “ecofascism”.

The Wilderness Act is passed to ensure that lands are designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition.


The Order of Bards Ovates and Druids (OBOD) is founded by Ross Nichols.



J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings [right] is published in paperback edition in the U.S. Some have read environmentalist themes in the series, including nature loving elves, nature despoiling orcs, and sentient tree “shepherds” called Ents.

Adlai Stevenson gives a speech to the UN in which he describes the earth as a space shop with limited reserves of air and soil. The following year Barbara Ward coins the phrase “Spaceship Earth”. The phrase is popularized by Buckminster Fuller in 1968, the year of the Apollo 8 crew photographs “Earthrise”. In 1971, United Nations Secretary-General U Thant spoke “Spaceship Earth” on the second Earth Day.


event_226658442The Sierra Club succeeds in preventing the damming of the Grand Canyon [right].

The Californian psychedelic counterculture peaks.


Morning Glory and Oberon Zell

Morning Glory and Tim Zell

Tim Zell [right] files for incorporation of the Church of All Worlds as a “church”. Official status was granted in 1968, making it the first Neo-Pagan state-recognized “church”. Zell begins using the term “Pagan” to describe the new religion. CAW was influenced by Frederick Adams’ Feraferia cosmology and Wiccan ritual forms.  CAW was formally chartered on March 4, 1968.

Frederick Adams’ wilderness mystery religion Feraferia is incorporated. Sarah Pike marks this, together with the founding of NROOGD, as the beginning of the Neo-Pagan movement.

Lynn White publishes “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis” in the periodical Science. The essay examines the effect of Christianity on humankind’s relationship with nature.

The Environmental Defense Fund is founded.

Amendment to the Clean Air Act.




Apollo 8 crew crew photographs the famous “Earthrise photo” [right]. This view of the living Earth rising from the horizon of the dead moon helped many humans realize the fragility of their home.

Isaac Bonewits joins the RDNA. The organization becomes more explicitly Neo-Pagan.

The Church of All Worlds begins publishing the Green Egg newsletter. It becomes the most important Neo-Pagan forum for many years. The publication is instrumental in the formation of a emerging identity around the word “Neopagan” (later just “Pagan”).

The height of the American Counterculture movement. According to Theodore Roszak, the Counterculture was a response to a sense of deep-seated alienation and disillusionment felt by many Americans brought on by modernity, secularization, industrialization, bureaucratization, and capitalism.

Paul R. Ehrlich publishes The Population Bomb.

The Whole Earth Catalog begins publication and serves as a bible for the back-to-the-land movement.

The term “biological diversity” was used first by wildlife scientist and conservationist Raymond Dasmann. The term is not widely adopted until the 1980s.

The term “biological” diversity was used first by wildlife scientist and conservationist Raymond Dasmann.

Edward Abbey publishes Desert Solitaire.


David Brower resigns as executive director of the Sierra Club and founds Friends of the Earth.


Earth_Day_NY_TimesThe first Earth Day is celebrated [right]. 20 million people came out for the event, the largest demonstration ever. The environmental movement gains rapid speed around the world.

Aidan Kelly publishes a Pagan-Craft Calendar which is picked up by the Green Egg and became standard among Pagans.

Mother Earth News is founded, promoting sustainable living practices.

The Clean Air Act is significantly expanded.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is created.

The Church of All Worlds shifts to a Neo-Pagan style organization and it becomes the first Neo-Pagan group to be given non-profit status by the IRS. In contrast to Wicca or witchcraft, which Tim (Otter/Oberon) Zell saw as a magical craft or occult society, the Church of All Worlds was intended to function as a public religion.


IM.0207_zlGreenpeace is founded [right].

Following a vision the year previous, Tim (Otter/Oberon) Zell publishes his article, “Theagenesis: The Birth of the Goddess” in the Green Egg, which articulates a Gaia-like theory several years before James Lovelock popularized the idea. The Church of All Worlds becomes more Neo-Pagan in orientation.

A talk given by Julie Carter (Zell) of the Church of All Worlds to a women’s group at the Worldcon science-fiction convention in Los Angeles, California is the beginning of the Goddess religion movement.

The UK-based Pagan Federation is organized.

A series of articles appears in The New Yorker called “Encounters with the Archdruid”, describing wilderness journeys of former head of the Sierra Club, John Brower, known pejoratively by his enemies as a “druid”.


a-fierce-green-fire-movie-image-4-600x360Deforestation of the Amazon [right] accelerates following the opening of highways deep into the forest like the Trans-Amazonian highway.

Arne Naess coins the term “deep ecology” to express the idea that nature has intrinsic value apart from its usefulness to human beings.

Arnold Toynbee publishes “The Religious Background of the Present Environmental Crisis”.

The Council of Themis is organized by the Church of All Worlds, Feraferia, and other Pagan groups. The Council was the first attempt at a Pagan ecumenical organization. The Council issues a statement that “ecology shows the pattern of man’s proper and creative involvement with Nature, that Nature which encompasses his own life and on proper relation to which his survival and development depend. Of all man’s secular studies, ecology comes closest to bringing him to the threshold of religious relationship to his world.

10The insecticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT ) [right] is banned in the U.S.

The Clean Water Act is passed.

The iconic photo “Blue Marble”, the first photograph in which Earth is in full view, was taken by the Apollo 17 crew.

Christopher Stone publishes the law review article entitled, “Should Trees Have Standing?”

The Limits to Growth is published by The Club of Rome, an association of scientists and political leaders. The book is about the computer modeling of exponential economic and population growth with finite resource supplies. Five variables were examined, including world population, industrialization, pollution, food production and resource depletion. Two of the three scenarios saw collapse of the global system by the mid- to latter part of the 21st century.

The UN’s first major conference on international environmental issues, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (also known as the Stockholm Conference) is held.


OPEC-oil-embargoOPEC announces an oil embargo against the United States [right].

The Council of Earth Religions is formed. The membership of this council was less somewhat diverse than that of the Council of Themis. Like its predecessor, the Council of Themis, it does not survive.

The Endangered Species Act is signed.

E. F. Schumacher publishes Small Is Beautiful.

Paul Shepard publishes The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game. In this and other books, like Nature and Madness (1992), The Others: How Animals Made Us Human (1996), and Coming Home to the Pleistocene (1998), Shepard explores the the role that sustained contact with nature has healthy human psychological development.


Pilgrim at Tinker Creek013Annie Dillard publishes Pilgrim at Tinker Creek [right].  She is called the “female Thoreau”.

The first warnings of damage to stratospheric ozone due to chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) are published.

World human population reaches 4 billion.

Gary Snyder publishes Turtle Island. The call “Back to the Pleistocene!” is first heard. Snyder joined Edward Abbey in inspiring some of the earliest extralegal environmental resistance.

The Council of American Witches adopts a document titled “Principles of Wiccan Belief” that defined the central belief system of Wicca/Witchcraft for the general public. The Council is spearheaded by Carl Weschcke of Llewellyn in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Principles are incorporated into the U.S. Army Handbook for chaplains. It is the only such statement to achieve any degree of Pagan consensus since. The second item declares: “We recognize that our intelligence gives us a unique responsibility toward our environment. We seek to live in harmony with Nature, in ecological balance offering fulfillment to life and consciousness within an evolutionary concept.”



Greenpeace faces off against Soviet whalers

The Greenpeace vessel, the Phyllis Cormack, sails from Vancouver to face Soviet whalers on the coast of California [right]. Protesters place themselves between the harpoons and the whales. The footage of the encounter spreads across the world.

Edward Abbey publishes The Monkeywrench Gang, which inspires the radical environmentalism movement.

Starhawk founds her Compost coven.


witch6Earth Religion News  [right] is published by Herman Slater.

The Pan Pagan Festival is held in Indiana, the first national outdoor Pagan festival. 80 people attend. Within four years, the attendance had grown to 600. Pagan festivals have since proliferated and led to the formation of a decentralized community with shared songs, dances, rituals, and culture.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are banned from production in the U.S.


Catholic priest, Matthew Fox, founds the Institute of Culture and Creation Spirituality in Mundelein College in Chicago and later in Oakland, California, with Starhawk as a faculty member.

Joseph Wilson founds the Temple of the Elder Gods (TOTEG) as an attempt to discover locale-specific ways to worship one’s ancestors and gods.

The Clean Air Act is significantly expanded.


AMFierceGrnFire_LoveCanalKids_Lead_t614The Love Canal contamination is revealed [right].

Susan Griffin publishes Women and Nature.

Mary Daly publishes Gyn/Ecology.

Amoco-Cadiz oil spill off the coast of France.




Starhawk [right] publishes The Spiral Dance. The tradition it describes is a variant of Victor Anderson’s Faerie Tradition.  It becomes a Neo-Pagan classic.  Starkawk’s book together with Margot Adler’s become catalysts for the American Neo-Pagan movement.

Starhawk and Diane Baker found Reclaiming in San Francisco, a tradition which draws on Anderson’s Feri Tradition, Z Budapest’s Dianic witchcraft, and the feminist, peace, and environmental movements.

Margot Adler publishes Drawing Down the Moon. Adler’s book together with Starhawk’s become catalysts for the American Neo-Pagan movement. They also marked a shift in Pagans’ self-conception of legitimacy from one based on claims of historical continuity with the past to one based more on Jungian psychological claims to universality.

James Lovelock publishes Gaia, which popularized the Gaia Hypothesis.

The EarthSpirit Community holds the Rites of Spring. The celebration is held every May until the present.

tmi-bwIn the aftermath of the Three Mile Island accident [right], the worst nuclear power accident in U.S. history, mass anti-nuclear demonstrations.  The largest one was held in New York City and involved 200,000 people.

Atlantic Empress oil tanker collides with the Aegean Captain oil tanker in the Caribbean causing he largest ship-based spill on record.

Theodore Roszak publishes Person/Planet: The Creative Disintegration of Industrial Society.


page_11Earth First! is founded [right].

The largest Pagan festival to that time is held in Indiana, the Pan-Pagan Festival, sponsored by the Midwest Pagan Council and the Covenant of the Goddess. Almost 800 people attended the four-day festival.

Carol Merchant publishes The Death of Nature, which identifies the Enlightenment as the beginning of the paradigm shift to viewing nature as inert, rather than vital.

EarthSpirit is founded by Andras Corban Arthen to provide networking for Pagans and others following an Earth-centered spiritual path.

The Superfund or Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act o(CERCLA) is passed to clean up contaminated sites.

Jean Auel publishes Clan of the Cave Bear.


Paul Winter composes the “Missa Gaia” or Earth Mass for the Episcopal Diocese of New York. The mass was recorded in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and in the Grand Canyon, combining human voice and instruments and non-human voices of whales, wolves, and the wind, in order to create an experience of a more-than-human community.


Starhawk publishes Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex, and Politics.

Explosion of a pesticide factory in Bhopal, India, exposing a half million people to methyl isocyanate gas.


E. O. Wilson coins the term “biophilia” to describe the biological drive of human beings to seek connection with the rest of life.

Arne Naess and George Sessions go on a camping trip in Death Valley where they articulated the deep ecology platform.


688616main_1stholeThe Antarctic ozone hole [right] is discovered.

Joanna Macy and John Seed hold the first Council of all Beings in a camp near Sydney, Australia. The Council of All Beings is a ritual process which helps participants to see the world from the perspective of non-human beings.


The World Wildlife Fund brings together religious authorities representing the five major world religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism to prepare declarations identifying the responsibilities towards the care of nature expected of followers of each religion thus providing spiritual motivation for environmental action.


World human population reaches 5 billion.


global_warmingThe hottest summer in history. Global opinion begins to change about climate change [right].

The term “biodiversity” first appears in a publication by sociobiologist E. O. Wilson. The term may have been coined by W.G. Rosen in 1985.

Atmospheric CO2 levels exceed the upper safety limit of 350 parts per million. This upper limit to avoid a climate tipping point is identified by James Hansen in 2007, almost 20 years after the fact.



In lieu of its annual “Person of the Year” issue, Time Magazine publishes a “Planet of the Year: Endangered Earth”.  One essay traced the origins of environmental devastation to the the injunction in Genesis to multiply and exercise dominion over the earth.

The Exxon Valdez creates the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

Edward Abbey, author of Desert Solitaire, dies. In his last act of desert consecration, he arranged for his body, unpolluted by embalmer’s artifice, to be spirited away and illegally buried in the desert that was sacred to him.

Elan Shapiro, one of Robert Greenway’s (the “wilderness effect”) graduate students organizes a psychoecology discussion group that met every other week at Berkley.  In 1990, Theodore Roszak asks to join the group.


Earth Day mobilizes 200 million people in 141 countries.  Approximately a million gather in Central Park in New York City.

The first ecopsychology conference is held in Cambridge, “Psychology As If the Whole Earth Mattered”.

Warwick Fox publishes Toward a Transpersonal Ecology: Developing New Foundations for Environmentalism.

Panthea becomes the first Pagan congregation of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA). (It was the first time the UUA board was not unanimous in its decision to accept a congregation.) Crista Landon and Phaedra Christine Heyman (later Bonewits) founded Panthea as a Pagan temple in Chicago in 1986. The congregation lasted until around 2003.


National-Geographic-Kuwait-Oil-firesKuwaiti oil fires burn a billion barrels of oil [right].

The world’s worst oil spill in history occurs in Kuwait during war with Iraq.

The term “nature religion” is coined by the American religion studies scholar Catherine Albanese in her work Nature Religion in America: From the Algonkian Indians to the New Age.




UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro. The International Convention on Biological Diversity is also held.

The term “ecological footprint” is coined by William Rees.

Daniel Quinn publishes Ishmael, which uses a Socratic dialogue with a telepathic gorilla to deconstruct the cultural myth that humans are the pinnacle of biological evolution. Ishmael and its sequels inspired proponents of the deep ecology and anarcho-primitivism movements.

Theodore Roszak coins the term “ecopsychology” in his book The Voice of the Earth.


Rosemary Radford Ruether publishes Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing.


The Unitarian Universalist Assembly votes to acknowledge “earth-centered” spirituality in its by-laws as a major source of UUA beliefs. Two years earlier, in 1993, the UUA included Goddess and earth-centered songs in its new hymnal.


The Kyoto Protocol is negotiated in Kyoto, Japan as an amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.Countries that ratify this protocol commit to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases. The U.S. rejects the Kyoto Protocol in 1999.


The first Pagan Pride Day is held in Indianapolis, Indiana.


World human population reaches 6 billion.


Rev. Angie Buchanan, director of Gaia’s Womb, is elected to the Board of Trustees for for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, one of the most respected interfaith organizations in the world. In 2006, Andra Corban-Arthen, director of the EarthSpirit Community was elected. Then in 2009, Phyllis Currot, pagan author and attorney was elected.

The UN Earth Summit is held in Johannesburg.


Bron Taylor publishes the 1900-page Encylopedia of Religion and Nature with over 250 contributors.


An Inconvenient Truth premiers about former United States Vice President Al Gore’s campaign to educate citizens about global warming via a comprehensive slide show.


James Hansen identifies 350 parts-per-million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere as the safe upper limit to avoid a climate tipping point.


HometreeJames Cameron’s film Avatar [right] appears in theaters. Set in the future on a lush planet occupied by aliens called the Na’vi. The Na’vi dwell in trees,  live in harmony with nature, and worship a goddess called Eywa, who is identical with the planet itself. The Na’vi are threatened by the imperialistic and militarily advanced humans who want to mine the planet.

Ehoah (an offshoot of RDNA) is founded by Rua Lupa.

“The National Parks: America’s best idea”, a multi-part documentary, airs on public television.


Deepwater Horizon is the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.


World human population reaches 7 billion.

The Fukushima nuclear reactor melt-down.


The Covenant of the Goddess publishes a formal position statement on the environment.


A group of Pagans, including religious leaders, artists, and authors from around the world, drafted “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment” which can be found at ecopagan.com on Earth Day 2015. You can read the statement at ecopagan.com, and sign on your own behalf or on behalf of a group or organization.


Related Pages:

External Links:

Environmental History Timeline

Updated 9/5/14


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