The United States still pollutes more than any other nation, and still represents the epitome of a consumerist society: producing little more than nothing, and consuming a large quantity of the world’s goods. The Environmentalist movement, even though it has achieved mainstream status, remains unable to show progress in curbing these trends. In fact, the mainstream status of the movement puts the movement itself in some jeopardy. That is, the Environmentalist movement in the United States has been quite “successful”, but not successful in the way many of the original environmentalists and conservationists had hoped: commercially successful, which many believe has corrupted the movement beyond repair.
American Environmentalism took root in the open frontiers of the untamed West in the 19th century when principles of conservation ran contrary to abusive practices in mining and railroad construction. The role of the environment in American politics changed in 1901 when President Roosevelt instituted practices, like the Reclamation Act, to conserve land and resources across the country (Silveira, 2003). The split between conservation (using resources efficiently) and preservation (not using resources at all) fragmented the environmentalist movement in the 20th century, which provided a source of diversity among these groups. Early environmentalism was an upper-class movement to preserve resources for recreation (Silveira, 2003).
Modern Environmentalism primarily began in 1962 with the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, which detailed the devastation of industry on nature. Taken with other social movements in the 1960s, the Environmentalist movement became one more means to infuse particular values into society as a whole. However, rather than attempting social change during this time, Environmentalists sought government intervention to protect the