Environmentalism may constitute the most enduring and important social movement of the twentieth century, a movement whose importance, in all probability, will increase over the coming decades and centuries. How should we evaluate its historical development, current status, and future trajectory at the onset of the new millennium? How should we conceptually and practically account for this complex, diverse, and protean phenomenon? This book investigates environmentalism in an attempt to answer these questions. Rather than simply surveying or celebrating the various achievements of environmentalists—though these achievements certainly merit an account and, many of them, a celebration—the following pages situate contemporary environmental struggles in a historical and conceptual framework. By means of this framework, the primary challenges that confront environmentalists today are presented.
A study of the current status of environmentalism ideally would be both historically and geographically comprehensive. It would provide an account of the development of environmental concerns over time, potentially leading back to the dawn of history. It would also be global in scope. I do not attempt either of these tasks here.
This book is meant to describe the most salient features of contemporary environmentalism. While I believe that these features display themselves to greater or lesser extent across the globe, the evidence for their saliency is chiefly taken from the words and deeds of American