On August 6, 1945, the United States used a massive, atomic weapon against Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, a second bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. Within the first two months of the bombings, the acute effects killed 90,000-166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000-80,000 people in Nagasaki. During the following months and years, very painful effects of these days in history still lingered. Any humans that survived the blast were suffering radiation exposure. Roughly forty-five percent of 280,000 people who survived the exposure were still alive sixty years later. This brought to light the significant damage that radiation exposure could emit on people. Once it was known that a type of radiation exposure this colossal could under-develop children, increase the long-term risks of cancer, and exponentially deteriorate cities and forests, environmentalism evolved from a simple concept to an active movement. With Japan surrendering and closure at arms-reach, Americans welcomed peace while Robert Oppenheimer and others worried about the consequences of unleashing atomic power. Shortly after the war, Oppenheimer warned: “We have made a thing, a most terrible weapon that has altered abruptly and profoundly the nature of the world…a thing that by all the standards of the world we grew up in is an evil thin.” Almost every American, including him, believed that the “evil thing” had brought peace in 1945, but nobody knew what it would bring in the future, although everybody knew it would inevitably shape the world to come, as in fact it did. This catastrophic event during WWII undoubtedly marked the point at which environmentalism truly started to emerge, and thereafter, several political, economic, and ecological factors molded this institution into a movement that would last for generations upon generations.
America's postwar industrialization presumed at a rapid rate, and although the outcome was greatly massive, the calamity they caused alarmed many people. Nuclear fallout from atomic tests, air pollution caused by millions of cars and factories ejecting chemicals into the atmosphere, the destruction of once-pristine rivers and lakes and the disappearance of farmland and forests under suburban developments were a concern to many citizens.
Somewhere in the midst of this chaos, an intuitive scientist and author by the name of Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a mortifying argument against the reckless use of the pesticides that were killing out populations of birds, insects and other animals.
Following the publication of Silent Spring and books like Paul Erlich's The Population Bomb, Democratic Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson joined many other politicians in adding environmental protection to their platforms. The growing realization that human industry was obliterating irreplaceable wilderness -- and endangering human health -- resulted in the earliest efforts at managing natural resources. Even Republican Richard...