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Environmental History: Looking to the Future by
Learning from the Past
GSI
Living in the Environment
14th Edition
Chapter 2
Los Angeles Smog
Essential Learning Questions / Objectives
Define three major cultural and environmental changes that have occurred
since humans were hunter-gatherers.
Describe the environmental history of the United States in terms of the Tribal
and Frontier Eras, the Early Conservation Era, and the Environmental Era.
Compare slash-and-burn agricultural practices with the modern advanced
forms of farming. State the advantages and disadvantages of each.
List individuals who made major contributions to conservation/environmental
movements in the United States and briefly describe these contributions.
Define environmental backlash. Briefly describe the effects of this backlash.
Summarize the key environmental events of the 1980s in the U.S. and the
World
Compare and contrast the environmental policies of the Clinton administration
and the Bush administration.
Cultural Changes and the Environment
Hunter-gatherers
Humans (Homo sapiens) have been in existence for about 160,000 years, a mere blink of an
eye in terms of biological life. (early humans lived off the land – nomadic)
Agricultural (Neolithic) Revolution
(10,000 to 12,000 years ago)
Industrial-Medical Revolution
(began in the 1700’s in England Progressed to United States in the 1800’s)
Information and Globalization Revolution
(since 1950 and especially since 1970)
return
Cultural Changes and the Environment: HunterGatherer Culture
 Hunter-gatherers
 Nomadic:
seasonal movement
 Usually limited
environmental
impact
Race to Save the Planet: The
Environmental Revolution
return
Video Clip
Agricultural (Neolithic) Revolution *
Early Agricultural practices
With the agricultural revolution, people settled
into communities, cultivated plants and
domesticated animals.
Slash-and-burn cultivation developed in tropical
regions. Sustainable cultivation (such as
seen with this rotational type) meant little
impact on the land.
 Essentially sustainable resource use
Modern Agricultural practices
Encourages: monoculture, irrigation, fertilizers
and pesticides.
Causes problems like: soil erosion, habitat
fragmentation, land, air and water pollution.
Damage to humans and wildlife through the use
of fertilizers and pesticides
- eutrophication
- genetic resistance
 Increased Environmental Impact
return
Slash and Burn and Shifting Cultivation
1
Clearing
and burning
vegetation
2
4
3
Planting
return
Allowing
to revegetate
10 to 30 years
Harvesting for
2 to 5 years
Trade-Offs in the Name of Progress
Cultural Changes and the Environment: The
Industrial-Medical Revolution
 Industrial Revolution (mid-1700’s) higher standard of living couple with
greater environmental degradation.
 Shift to dependence
on non-renewable
resources (coal).
The steam engine was
the “workhorse” of the
industrial revolution
 Centralized factories
now began to massproduce goods.
 Advancements in
farming and medicine
improve living
conditions
Race to save the planet:
Industrial revolution video clip
Dramatic increase in
environmental impact
Cultural Changes and the Environment: The
Information/Globalization Revolution

Information Revolution

Rate of information increase
and speed of communication

Globalization leads to a world
socially, economically, and
environmentally more
interconnected.

Decrease in cultural diversity

Awareness of environmental
problems can lead us to
respond effectively.

Information overload can lead
to confusion and
hopelessness.
Oil in the Amazon –
TV - 60 minutes
The Internet Influence
60 seconds
Little Green Men
return
Environmental History of the United States
The Tribal Era
The Frontier Era (1607-1890)
The Early Conservation Era (1832 – 1960)
The Environmental Era (1960 – Present)
return
Environmental History of the United States: The Tribal and
Frontier Eras
Tribal Era:
Native Americans:
5-10 million tribal people
 Native Americans for at least 10,000
years caused some extinctions, but
generally were low-impact huntergather or agricultural societies
 Most cultures had a deep reverence
for nature and did not believe in land
ownership.
Frontier Environmental Worldview:
European Settlement (1607-1890)
 Resources were thought to be
inexhaustible
 The land was viewed as hostile,
dangerous, and needing to be
conquered
 The frontier was to be conquered, and
this attitude is still a part of American
culture
Impacts of the Frontier
Environmental Worldview
The near extinction of the
American Bison
The Early Conservation Era (1832-1960)



A few people warned Americans of resource base degradation, but now many
listened to warnings
Conservationists urged protection of public wilderness areas
Henry David Thoreau wrote Life in the Woods, an environmental classic about
his observations of nature for two years in the Massachusetts woods
George Perkins Marsh, a scientist and Vermont legislator, published Man and
Nature in 1864 in which he presented studies to show resources must be
conserved
Between 1870 and 1930, the role of the federal
government and private citizens increased to
protect natural resources
The Forest Reserve Act of 1891 established
that federal government was responsible for
protecting public lands from exploitation.
John Muir was a geologist and naturalist who
founded the Sierra Club in 1892. He lobbied
for conservation laws, he led the
preservationist movement to limit use of
public wilderness to hiking and camping, he
lobbied for a National Park system, and he
was responsible for establishing Yosemite
National Park in 1890
The Early Conservation Era (1832-1960)
President Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909) established wildlife reserves
and tripled the size of national forest reserves.
 He persuaded Congress to grant the president power to designate
public land as federal wildlife reserves
 The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) was created in 1905 with Gifford
Pinchot as its first chief.
 The Antiquities Act of 1906 allows the president to protect areas of
scientific or historical interest on federal lands as national
monuments.
 In 1907 Congress banned executive withdrawals of public forests.
 Roosevelt is considered to be the best environmental president.
The National Park Service Act was passed by Congress in
1916
The Early Conservation Era (1832-1960)
Set backs to early conservation
 Presidents Harding, Coolidge,
and Hoover promoted resource
removal from public lands at
low prices to stimulate
economic growth
 Hoover proposed selling all
public lands to private interests
for economic development.
 The Great Depression was
devastating for the nation, but
forestalled the purchase of
public lands by private
interests
return
Attempts at restoration
In the 1930s the government
bought land and hired workers
to restore the country’s
degraded environment
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
established conservation
projects and public health
projects in the 1930s.
The Civilian Conservation Corp
(CCC) was established in 1933.
Two million people obtained work
with CCC restoring degraded
environments and building
dams providing jobs, flood
control, irrigation water, and
cheap electricity.
Important Figures During The Early Conservation Era
 Henry David Thoreau
(1817-1862)
Life in the Woods – he saw a loss of
wild species in the Northeastern
United States
 George Perkins Marsh
(1801-1882)
Man and Nature – questioned whether
resources were inexhaustible
 John Muir
(1838-1914)
Founder of the Sierra Club
 Theodore Roosevelt
(1858-1919)
 Gifford Pinchot
(1865-1946)
 Franklin Roosevelt
(1882-1945)
Back to Essential Questions
His term in office was called the
“Golden Age of Conservation” 1901-09
Appointed to manage and protect
forests USFS- Scientifically managed
forests (multiple use policy)
“The New Deal” and (CCC) Civilian
Conservation Corps- Restoration
projects including tree plantings, dam
and levee repairs
The Environmental Era (1960-Present)
Events that influenced the Environmental Movement
Minamata Bay, Japan – Methyl Mercury (1959)
Rachel Carson: Silent Spring (1962) –Impacts of pesticide use
Oil polluted Cuyahoga River flowing through Cleveland, Ohio, catches fire and
burns for 8 days. (1968)
The Science of Ecology
Paul Ehrlich –The Population Bomb (1968)
Garrett Hardin – Tragedy of the Commons (1968)
Barry Commoner-The Closing Circle (1971)
Aldo Leopold – Sand County Almanac (1949)
Leopold Land Ethics
Spaceship Earth Worldview
Apollo 11 (1969) – photographs from space reminded
us that we live on a unique miraculous planet
The first annual Earth Day was held April 22, 1970
Endangered Planet : Impacts of the industrial way of life
trigger the Environmental Revolution
Environmental Era
Firefighters battle a fire on Ohio's Cuyahoga
River in 1952. The polluted river caught fire on
several occasions between 1936 and 1969,
when debris and oil had concentrated on the
water's surface and ignited. A blaze in 1969
came at a time of increasing environmental
awareness and symbolized years of
environmental neglect. The Cuyahoga River
fires helped spur grassroots activism that
resulted in a wave of federal legislation
devoted to taking serious action against air
and water pollution.
A crushed
Caspian tern
egg, broken
because of
DDT-induced
weakening of
the shell, next
to a normal
egg.
Important Figures During The Environmental Era
Richard Nixon:
EPA – Environmental Protection Agency
(1970)
ESA – Endangered Species Act (1973)
strengthen the role of the federal
government in protecting endangered
species and their habitats
Clean Air Act (1970)
Resources Recovery Act (1970)
Safe Drinking Water Act (1973)
Jimmy Carter:
DOE – Department of Energy (1977)
Superfund - Comprehensive Environment
Response, Compensation, and Liability
Act in 1980 designed to clean up
abandoned hazardous waste sites like
Love Canal, New York
Carter used the Antiquities Act 1906 to triple the
land in the National Wilderness system and
doubled the land in the National Park system.
The Environmental Decade - The 70’s
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
received its first real authority to
manage public lands under its control
with the passage of the Federal Land
Policy and Management Act in 1978,
85% of public lands are in 12 western
states. The law angered a number of
western interests whose use of public
lands was restricted for the first time.
Opposition to the Environmental
Movement
A political campaign known as the
“sagebrush rebellion” resulted as
miners, ranchers, loggers,
developers, farmers, and others
joined together to try to greatly reduce
government regulation and to
persuade legislators to sell or lease
these lands to private interests at low
prices
return
Back to Essential Questions
1980’s: backlash against environmentalism
Environmental backlash - An anti-environmental movement formed to weaken or
rescind many of the environmental laws passed during the 1960s and 1970s
in order to destroy the political effectiveness of the environmental movement
1980’s: backlash against environmentalism
Ronald Reagan – a self-declared sagebrush rebel
advocated less federal control

Greatly increased private energy and mineral
development and timber cutting on public lands
during his eight years in office

During this period federal funding for research
on energy conservation and renewable energy
resources was drastically cut

The “wise-use” movement was formed in 1988,
backed by coal, oil, mining, automobile, timber,
and ranching interests. The goals were to
weaken/repeal environmental laws and
incapacitate the environmental movement
Some environmental events of the 1980’s
Three Mile Island (1979) Pennsylvania, United States – nuclear accident the core
was exposed and there was small radiation leak. Poor design an human error
Union Carbide Pesticide Plant (1984) Bhopal, India – Toxic fumes from a pesticide
plant killed 6000 people and injure between 50,000-60,000 people.
Chernobyl (1986) Ukraine – the world’s most serious nuclear accident (explosion)
30 people killed thousand developed cancer after the exposure.
Times Beach, Missouri (1986) – evacuated and bought by the EPA because of
dioxin contamination
Exxon Valdez (1989) – Oil tanker accident in Alaska’s Prince William Sound
These events made the public more aware of the dangers of ignoring the
environment
Recent Event
BP – Gulf Oil Spill (2010) – Greatest environmental disaster in United States history
Environmental Timeline
Current Environmental Politics
Clinton Administration
Most environmental efforts since 1990
have been spent trying to keep
anti-environmentalists from
weakening or eliminating laws
passed in the 1960s and 1970s
Bill Clinton appointed
environmentalists to key positions
in environmental and resource
agencies during the eight years of
his presidency
He protected more public land as
national monuments in the lower 48
states than any other president
Environmentalists have had to counter
claims that problems such as global
warming and ozone depletion are
hoaxes or not serious
Bush Administration
George W. Bush became president in
2001 and proceeded to weaken
many environmental and public
land use laws and policies
Bush’s policies rest on increasing use
of fossil fuels and a relaxation of air
and water quality standards. He
also tried to repeal or weaken most
of the pro-environmental measures
established by Clinton
Moderate Republicans and most
Democrats agree that
environmental problems are too
serious to be used as a political
tool. They urge elected officials to
become the world leader in making
the 21st century the environmental
century
Case Study: Aldo Leopold and His Land Ethic
 Individuals are interdependent
 Ethics: respect for land
 Shift from conqueror to member
 Problems arise when land viewed as a commodity
 Preservation of the integrity, stability, and beauty of
land is right
References:
Race to Save the Planet: The Environmental Revolution (1990)
Endangered Planet (1998)