Environmental Movements in the United States

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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 throug...

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