Wisconsin native and former US Senator, Gaylord Nelson has done a great deal for the environment. Nelson founded Earth Day in 1969, one of the most influential moments for environmentalism. While Senator, Nelson helped establish the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Wilderness Act, the Environmental Act, banned DDT, and helped create what we now know as the Appalachian Trail system. In 2009 he was named one of the most influential environmentalist of all time.
Gaylord Nelson is an amazing gentleman, absolutely. I, however, am going to recommend another man who I think really sparked the environmental movement in American history, someone who may be a root cause of our environmental concern today.
President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt is known as the “naturalist president.” He was incredibly passionate about the environment. Around the time that he entered office, birds from Pelican Island off the Florida coast were being killed and used as decorations on women’s hats. When Roosevelt learned of this environmental injustice he asked his officials if there were any law prohibiting him from making Pelican Island a Federal Reservation for birds. When told “no,” Roosevelt said, “Very well then. I so declare it.”
That declaration was a crucial moment for environmentalism. Pelican Island became the first wildlife preserve, and Roosevelt went on to create the National Parks system in America. Roosevelt spearheaded the Early Conservation movement, caring deeply for our planet, ensuring that Americans protect it so that it could be enjoyed by our ancestors for centuries.
For some very interesting reading, check out Douglas Brinkley’s biography of Roosevelt titled The Wilderness Warrior.
Politically, I would say Theodore Roosevelt and Al Gore have done the most in history to raise awareness in the United States.
Ansel Adams has certainly done a lot with his photographs to spread the message about how beautiful the environment is without man encroaching.
I would agree with Teddy Roosevelt, for creating the National Parks, and I would add to the list two more names. Firstly, John Muir, the forester and naturalist, who is called “the Father of the National Park Service.” Muir Woods, the beautiful forest in Marin County north of San Francisco, is named for him. He was adamant about preserving forests and wildlife, and he has his own national monunment.
I would also add Rachel Carson, who wrote Silent Spring, the 1960s book that many believe initiated environmental philosophy in America, in its present form.
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