Environmental History

Skirmishing about environmentalism may well continue forever, but the major war is over. It lasted far longer than most people realize.

One of this century’s profound cultural transformations began in the 1960s, when ecological thought took hold and fostered a new seriousness toward earth stewardship. But what happened then was really a transition. Read more >>

The naturalist ALDO LEOPOLD not only gave the wilderness idea its most persuasive articulation; he offered a way of thinking that turned the entire history of land use on its head

The trouble began at midmorning on Wednesday, April 21, 1948, when a neighboring farm’s trash fire got out of control. Read more >>

American attitudes toward them have taken a 180-degree turn over the last century—and so have the battles they provoke

ORGANIZED AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM IS HARDLY older than this century, and most of its current concerns are younger still. Some of the resources it now tries to protect, in fact, were among its original targets. Read more >>

THE PICTURE IS MORE HEARTENING THAN ALL THE LITTLE ONES

The Cuyahoga River died for our sins . In 1796 the Cuyahoga, which promised easy transportation into the wilderness of the Ohio country from Lake Erie, prompted the city of Cleveland into existence. Read more >>

For more than a century now, American homeowners have been struggling to remake their small patch of the environment into a soft, green carpet just like the neighbor’s. Who told us this was the way a lawn had to be?

When it comes to lawn care, my father has always insisted on doing it the hard way. No shortcuts or modern conveniences for him. Read more >>

Ninety years ago a highborn zealot named Gifford Pinchot knew more about woodlands than any man in America. What he did about them changed the country we live in and helped define environmentalism.

Like most public officials, Gov. Gifford Pinchot of Pennsylvania could not answer all his mail personally. Much of it had to be left to aides, but not all of these realized the character of their boss. Read more >>

A hundred and fifty years ago, a sea of grass spread from the Ohio to the Rockies; now only bits and pieces of that awesome wilderness remain for the traveler to discover.

Behind my grandparents’ house, the house in which I was born, rose a high pasture, little used in my boyhood and then only for grazing a few head of cattle. Read more >>

A HERITAGE PRESERVED
Since 1930, more than half of America’s splendid elm trees have succumbed to disease. But science is now fighting back and gaining ground.

They left behind great names —the Divine Elm, the Justice Elm, the Pride of the State, the Green Tree. Read more >>

Did the Indians have a special, almost noble, affinity with the American environment—or were they despoilers of it? Two historians of the environment explain the profound clash of cultures between Indians and whites that has made each group almost incomprehensible to the other.

When the historian Richard White wrote his first scholarly article about Indian environmental history in the mid-1970s, he knew he was taking a new approach to an old field, but he did not realize just how new it was. Read more >>

We talk about it constantly and we arrange our lives around it. So did our parents; and so did the very first colonists. But it took Americans a long time to understand their weather—and we still have trouble getting it right.

Weather makes news headlines almost every day in some community in the United States. Read more >>

Banished from public view in our cities, this two-hundred-year-old import is alive and well behind the scenes

“SHE LOOKED DOWN into the yard. The tree whose leaf umbrellas had curled around, under and over her fire escape had been cut down because the housewives had complained that wash on the lines got entangled in its branches. Read more >>

It’s our most important, profitable, and adaptable crop—the true American staple. But where did it come from?

In 1748 an inquisitive Swede named Peter Kalm, a protégé of the great botanist Linnaeus, came to America to find plants that could be useful in his country. He went around asking questions of everybody about everything. Read more >>

Piskiou,Vaches Sauvages, Buffler, Prairie Beeves—

One morning in July, 1966, a lone buffalo bull grazed near the highway on the mountain between Virginia City and Ennis, Montana, unmindful of the click of camera shutters or the rustle of hesitant tourists getting in and out of automobiles. Read more >>

So read a welcoming sign over the door of Charles Willson Peale’s great ill-fated museum

In the summer of 1786, an advertisement heralding the appearance of a revolutionary new institution appeared in the Pennsylvania Packet: “ MR. Read more >>

Peale’s Greatest Triumph

During the spring of 1801 Charles Willson Peale learned of a remarkable discovery—the huge bones of an “animal of uncommon magnitude” had been found in Orange and Ulster counties north of New York City. Read more >>

He was the first Englishman to give a detailed description of the North American wilderness. Was it a pack of lies?

“Does the name David Ingram mean anything to you?” I have been going around asking. The answer is almost always no. Yet if Ingram is to be believed, he and two others with him accomplished perhaps the outstanding walk in recorded history. Read more >>

One hundred years ago, Congress created two agencies—the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Ethnology. Both, according to the author, have since “given direction, form, and stimulation to the science of earth and the science of man, and in so doing have touched millions of lives.”

The quietly compelling legend of America’s gentlest pioneer

“There is in the western country a very extraordinary missionary of the New Jerusalem. A man has appeared who seems to be almost independent of corporal wants and sufferings. Read more >>

The Garden Club of America-once the diversion of leisured ladies—is now a vigorous environmental league

The young should be trained to love flowers and take care of the garden shrubberies. Such knowledge and taste are greatly needed in our land,” counseled Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1858. Read more >>

The Colonial Status—Past and Present—of the Great American West

The pelts of beaver, the dust of placer gold, the tongues and hides of buffalo, the proteinaceous feed of native grass, the smeltings of precious and commercial minerals, the viscous gush of oil: these have been the elementals of the American West shipped eas Read more >>

The Last Stand of King Grizzly

Bears and people have been at war for a long time-possibly longer than two predatory mammals should be, with any hope of mutual survival. In the beginning, the bears won almost every time, though not as often as the great cats did. Read more >>

A Last Link with the Living Frontier

In southern California the orange found a home.

For more than thirty years it stood at the corner of Highland Avenue and Del Rosa Avenue in San Bernardino, California, bordered at the rear by a line of eucalyptus trees and behind that by a thirty-acre grove of fat green trees that joined others in a march to the foothills of the San Bernardino Read more >>

Man, Land, and History in the Deepest Gorge on Earth

Hells Canyon is awesome. There is no other single word that can adequately describe it. Incredibly deep, austerely magnificent, it slashes between the states of Oregon and Idaho like a raw and gaping wound. Read more >>

Why have Americans perceived nature as something to be conquered?

Most people who have reflected at all upon the known history of the Americas, particularly North America, have been impressed one way or another with its dominant quality of fierceness. Read more >>

The Seasons of Man in the Ozarks

Sometime in the sleep of every year, between the browning of the oaks and the first greening of the spring wild grasses, that country flamed. Read more >>

Our Frontier Heritage of Waste

Historians of the future, looking back on the twilight years of the twentieth century, may designate the mid-1970’s as worthy of that supreme accolade accorded only the most significant dates in history: to serve as a dividing point between chapters in their textbooks. Read more >>

A trip to the Ozarks in 1910 has left us a unique record of a people by-passed by progress

The Ozarks—a young reporter from Kansas City named Charles Phelps Cushing thought in 1910—were “not stunning Rocky Mountains, just graceful old hills. Read more >>

THE AMERICAN BALD EAGLE

Do we still want him for our national bird? Read more >>

IN THE DELTA

The low-lying Delta—six and a half million acres of land rich with soil left by the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers in flood—was first opened to a cotton-hungry world in the mid-1820’s. The price of cotton was high. Read more >>