The Environmental Debate: A Documentary History

The Environmental Debate: A Documentary History

The Environmental Debate: A Documentary History

The Environmental Debate: A Documentary History

Synopsis

This unique collection of primary documents examines the evolution of concern about environmental degradation, pollution, and resource conservation in America from the colonial period to the end of the twentieth century. These documents, ranging from government reports and court cases to the writings of naturalists, economists, and novelists, offer a broad array of perspectives about such major environmental issues as population growth, air pollution, land and water use, toxins and waste disposal, and the use of timber and mining resources. The historical introductions to each part and to each document provide a context for analyzing each document and will aid readers of the book to better understand the various debates over how, why and if our environment needs to be protected. Students and other interested in environmental problems are encouraged to consider all sides of these complex issues before drawing their own conclusions.

Excerpt

Many of the environmental problems we face as we enter the twentyfirst century are not new. Although the tremendous increases in population and the technological developments of the past fifty to seventy-five years have created some previously unknown problems, many current environmental problems are merely exacerbations of the kinds of problems that have arisen whenever significant numbers of humans have settled in a region for long periods.

Anthropologists think that environmental problems, stemming from too little water or land to support dense population centers, may have contributed to the collapse of various ancient civilizations, including the Anaszi and the Maya. In colonial America, interference with the spawning of fish caused by the damming of waterways to supply energy for mills and harbor pollution were causes of friction and concern. In the early nineteenth century, the issue of sufficient land to support massive population growth was already being discussed in the United States as well as in Europe. By the middle of the century, air pollution, water supply, and urban sanitation were well-recognized problems. During the same period, voices were being raised in opposition to the wanton destruction of wildlife and calling for the preservation of forests and scenic land. However, it was not until the 1890s, when the U.S. western frontier had disappeared and there was no longer open land for Americans to expand into, that conservation became a major issue. And it was only after the dropping of the atomic bomb in 1945 and the realization that people had the ability to make the earth uninhabitable that the concept of environmentalism gained massive popular support.

Although problems of resource depletion, pollution, environmental degradation, and population growth have long been recognized, finding acceptable solutions to these problems has rarely been simple because . . .

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