- "I shall return again to the light of the sun, to prepare a home for thy descendants."
– Argonautica, Apollonius Rhodius
Environmentalism is the general attitude that the natural environment (meaning areas not currently exploited by humans) are inherently good and worthy of preservation, and not merely a repository of unexploited natural resources. In Western culture, the advent of environmentalism marked a profound shift in attitudes towards the natural world away from exploitation and toward preservation. The effects of rapacious resource consumption during the Industrial Revolution, as well as the grave health hazards of modern industrialism gave many people pause. Certainly there are many cultures throughout the world that have had a more conciliatory or integrated view of nature and humanity throughout history, but in this case we refer specifically to the modern, post-industrial attitude.
Rachel Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring” is often credited with bringing environmental concerns to a wider audience. The book documented many of the deleterious effects of pesticides and became a critical and popular success, changing many attitudes towards the costs of industrial development. Since the publication of this work, there is widespread (though not unanimous) support for policies and positions that minimize the effect that human activity has on the natural world across many disciplines and practices. It is a tribute to environmentalism that the world is, by some measures in some places, less polluted than it was when “Silent Spring” was published.