When Did Environmentalism Begin?

Jared Eigerman

October 3, 2022


Environmentalism began in the late 19th century with the works of Henry David Thoreau and John Muir. Thoreau’s book Walden was influential for the modern wilderness preservation movement. The idea of protecting the environment emerged in the late 19th century in reaction to the growth and industrialization of the industrial world and the increasing air pollution that plagued cities.


Today, environmentalists advocate for the protection and sustainable management of the environment. They also support human rights and recognize the role of humanity within ecosystems. The movement traces its roots to the late thirteenth century when King Edward I banned the burning of sea coal in London, where it was a common fuel source. The coal was known as “wheelbarrow coal” because it was often deposited on beaches and taken to the shores for fuel.

In the late 1800s, environmental groups began mobilizing to protect wild areas and limit human impact on the environment. They sought to regulate logging, mining, dam construction, and other threats to the natural world. These efforts helped lead to the founding of the National Park Service, which began to protect nature and wildlife. In 1949, Aldo Leopold published A Sand County Almanac, which laid out his principles for preserving natural areas. It was considered one of the most influential books on environmental conservation.


Modern conservationists are concerned with maintaining the integrity of the natural environment and restoring the delicate balance between nature and human activity. They are comprised of various groups, including nongovernmental organizations, grassroots organizations, and government agencies. But their work goes much further than these single groups. The modern conservation movement is a cooperative effort that spans a long history.

The first conservationists were people who opposed the destruction of nature. Rachel Carson, for example, refused to accept that progress always comes at a price. Carson changed the national attitude toward the natural world using her scientific knowledge and poetic talent to portray a character. In 1923, the League of Women Voters named her one of the nation’s twelve most influential women. However, conservationists like Anna Botsford Comstock were activists long before most people knew what that word meant.

Environmental justice

The modern environmental movement began with the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring. The book inspired bipartisan support for environmental activism. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy promised to initiate an investigation into the harmful effects of pesticides. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 required agencies to prepare environmental impact statements for most federally funded programs. Environmentalism protection laws also created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970.

Environmentalism has evolved and taken many forms, with different goals and objectives. It is a political, social, and ethical movement that seeks to protect and preserve nature. In the United States, it has led to the formation of various environmental organizations.

Early environmentalists

Environmentalists were concerned about pollution, depleting resources, and life’s ability to sustain an unprecedented number of people. These concerns were the first steps toward creating a new movement. Unfortunately, the first wave of environmentalism was followed by a backlash against it. Some writers argued that global catastrophe was only a myth and that scientific discoveries and technological innovations would solve the problems. In response, the environmental movement became more political and geared toward creating policies that protect the environment.

Hall shows that early environmentalists benefited from the writings of Romantic writers such as Wordsworth and Emerson. However, while recognizing that Romanticism influenced these writers’ work, she also points out that both authors shared concerns about environmental issues.

Environmental issues

The modern environmental movement dates back to the 1960s and the publication of Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book “Silent Spring.” Other important influences on the contemporary movement include the Santa Barbara Oil Spill and the 1970 Earth Day celebration. Since then, the environmental movement has morphed into a global movement with millions of participants.

Environmentalists aim to protect the natural environment and promote sustainable management of resources. They recognize that human beings are a part of ecosystems and promote eco-friendly practices that promote the health and well-being of humans. For example, in 1272, King Edward I of England banned the burning of sea coal in London, a standard fuel for people in the city. The coal got its name because it was often washed ashore on a wheelbarrow and pushed away.

Changes since 1970

The environmental movement has evolved considerably since the 1970s. During this time, environmental protection has become more oriented toward political action and social activism. It is now associated with human rights and emancipatory politics in the less-industrialized world. In India, for instance, the Chipko movement has linked forest protection with women’s rights. In Thailand, the Assembly of the Poor has organized a coalition of movements to advocate the right of the poor to participate in environmentalism policies.

The use of energy resources has risen substantially. This is reflected in estimates of the number of available environmental energy resources. Globally, the world is now on a path towards exhausting fossil fuels, with the proven reserves of oil and natural gas tripled. However, the future of nuclear power is unclear, especially in light of the Chornobyl disaster and environmental concerns.