Driven Wild: How the Fight against Automobiles Launched the Modern Environmental Movement

Article excerpt

Driven Wild: How the Fight against Automobiles Launched the Modern Environmental Movement, by Paul S. Sutter. $35.00 (c), University of Washington Press, 2002

An automobile field trip at the 1934 annual meeting of the American Forestry Association (now AMERICAN FORESTS) at Knoxville, Tennessee, provided the setting for the creation of the Wilderness Society. Four of the original founders left the caravan to meet by the roadside and draft the principles for a new organization. Paul Sutter sees this "roadside creation" as "rich with symbols of the founders' motivating concerns."

Sutter's thesis is that road building and "the nascent American car culture" accounts in great part for the emergence of modern wilderness advocacy and the Wilderness Society's forming. His book, however, is far more than a defense of this intriguing theory. It is an important insight into the broader social and cultural context in which the organized wilderness movement in the United States was born between the World Wars. Sutter argues that "a subtle understanding of the origins and content of the modern wilderness idea" is vital to the "search for environmental solutions" today.

Focusing on the lives of four of the Wilderness Society's eight founders (Aldo Leopold, Robert Sterling Yard, Benton MacKaye, and Bob Marshal), Sutter leads readers through the "complex terrain of the interwar period" and the debates over social, political, and ecological bases for wilderness advocacy. …