World leaders gather next week at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to talk about creating a green economy for the planet. But don’t go thinking this is the first international eco-bash. Bigwigs from the far corners of the globe have been talking about Saving the World for four decades now. Here’s a quick romp through 40 years of international environmental diplomacy, interspersed with Important Cultural Landmarks, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and, just for fun, some notes on what I was doing at the time.

1972

Leaders of the world gather in Stockholm, Sweden, to talk about what a mess we’ve made of the planet. The meetings spawn the United Nations Environment Programme (which is like a program, only fancier) and kick off a generation of environmental treaties and agreements on ozone depletion, protecting biological diversity, hazardous waste, endangered species, and climate change.

Al Green’s song “Let’s Stay Together” hits No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100.