The environmental movement is a truly fascinating one with a long and complicated history. While it’s absolutely not a requirement to be an environmentalist, knowing a little bit of the history is not only beneficial but also interesting. Being over two centuries long, the movement’s history is full of many great ups and downs. Here is a brief history on the environmental movement.
Beginning in Europe in the very early 1800s, environmentalism came into existence through an another ideology; Romanticism. Unlike what the name suggests, Romanticism was not an artistic and intellectual movement based on love but on emotion! Romanticism placed a lot of emphasis on nature, wanting people to appreciate the woods for their beauty, which challenged the solely scientific view many had of nature at the time. Later in the late 1800s, the environmental movement grew strongly in Britain as a response to the Industrial Revolution. With no environmental regulations to stop them, the factories of the Industrial Revolution polluted air and water and expanded out into beautiful farmland. Quickly, there was a backlash to the factories with people calling for wild spaces to be protected. Early conservation groups, like ‘the Society for the Protection of Birds (1889)’ and ‘the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty (1894),’ began popping up all over England.
The environmental movement began to take shape in North America when John Muir, one of the earliest environmentalist, convinced the U.S. congress to create the Yosemite National Park to preserve the beautiful valley. Many other conservation efforts began to take place across the continent with people trying to protect the dwindling american bison population. And in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson founded the National Park Service, which deeply supported the growing environmental movement. In the early 20th century, environmental laws and government agencies began to pop up all over the world but especially in Nazi Germany! Several of the high ranking Nazis were environmentalists and wanted to protect the german forests. The environmental movement only continued to grow in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s with many influential books being published, such as ‘A Sand County Almanac (1949)’ and ‘Silent Spring (1962).’ Silent Spring, written by American biologist Rachel Carson, is especially influential as it exposed the harmful and dangerous effects of the pesticide DDT. The book was so important for the environmental movement that it lead to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 and DDT was banned in 1972. The 1970s were greatly important for the green movement with many groups, like Greenpeace, forming in the 1970s. The first Earth Day and the UN’s first environmental conference also happened in the 70s. Into the 1980s, a growing awareness on global warming brought the environmental movement even more into the mainstream. Unfortunately, the environmental movement’s strength has declined somewhat since the late 2000s after it hit a high with the anger following the great recession.
The history of environmentalism and its movement is one full of interesting twists and turns. There is perhaps no other movement in history where the Nazis actually did something good! With such a long history, it’s important that we keep the environmental movement alive and well in the modern era!