Environmental Movements In The United States

1328 words - 5 pages

The United States has earned the reputation of a rebellious country since its birth in the revolution against Britain. Over the course of history, Americans have repeatedly confronted oppression, both foreign and national, through various wars and rights movements. Unfortunately, when it comes to environmental issues the average American has grown increasingly complacent. With a renewed urgency, government is working to combat global warming, but lacks the necessary social backing. This social support could be supplied through a new environmental movement that differs from past efforts. Throughout American history there have been three categories of environmental movements: preservation, conservation, and modern reform, all of which have failed to bring a ubiquitous social change and substantial impact on the overall environmental health.
The United States’ origin of environmentalism can be found in nineteenth century literature. The preservation era began with the newfound appreciation of nature that derived from transcendentalism. Ralph Waldo Emerson, author of the 1836 essay “Nature,” mentored and greatly influenced Henry David Thoreau, who went on to publish Walden in 1854 (“Ralph Waldo Emerson”). Thoreau’s studies of nature demonstrated the necessity of preserving the wild habitat, claiming “We need the tonic of wilderness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable…We can never have enough of nature” (Thoreau 187). Although Thoreau regarded nature in a manner of spiritual development, countless environmentalists and naturalists were inspired by his revelations; one of which, was John Muir. Through his various travels and occupations throughout the country, Muir developed a deep “connection to nature” (“John Muir (1838-1914)”), ultimately leading to his work for the protection of several natural landmarks. In the course of his lifetime, he was able to “champion protection of the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon in Arizona…Yosemite Valley as a national park in 1890, as well as for General Grant and Sequoia national parks” (“John Muir (1838-1914)”). Muir’s collaboration with President Theodore Roosevelt not only helped to make these national parks existent, but also developed into part of the “rational use” philosophy that guided environmental policy of the conservation era.
The conservation movement coincided with the progressive political era of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Significant figures of this time were George Perkins Marsh and Gifford Pinchot, both who played predominant roles in shaping the rational use policy by calling for simultaneous protection of natural resources and ability to use them for economic purposes. Marsh, an intellectual Vermont-native, wrote on the vital interconnection between humans and nature, calling for a taming or “command of nature,” believing it was “important to weigh results and act accordingly” (“George...

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