Environmentalism was around long before Leonardo DiCaprio started driving a hybrid. Dating back to ancient civilizations, the Earth has been contaminated with air pollution, water pollution and disease. During the Enlightenment, people began to construct technological devices that released toxic gas and smoke into the air. But it was not until the end of the 19th century that people started thinking about the preservation of nature and the world’s oil supply.
Being an "environmentalist" doesn’t mean that you have to be a scientist or expert; many of the people who have contributed to the green movement are writers and thinkers. Here at PeopleSpot, we have created a list of people that launched the crusade, intensified it, or revolutionized it in some way – and none of them are celebrities.
These resources offer more information on the individual people, works and periods in the art world.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Henry David Thoreau was a philosopher and writer of the famous book Walden, among other works. In Walden, Thoreau explored his relationship with nature by eschewing society to live simply in the woods for two years, near Walden Pond in Massachusetts. He was one of the first champions of conservation; as he saw land being used for agriculture and trees for fuel, he wrote that every town should have a conserved forest. For more information about Throeau, visit this Barnes and Noble page.
John Muir (1838-1914)
Explorer, writer and conservationist John Muir was the inspiration behind President Theodore Roosevelt’s preservation programs during the Progressive Era. Convincing President Roosevelt that it was his responsibility to protect the natural environment, Muir helped establish the first national monuments and Yosemite National Park. In 1892, Muir founded the Sierra Club, the oldest and largest environmental organization in the country. To learn more about Muir, check out the Sierra Club’s John Muir exhibit.
Alice Hamilton (1869-1970)
Research scientist Alice Hamilton was the first woman appointed to the faculty at Harvard Medical School. She spent many years in Chicago at Jane Addams’s Hull House, studying the high incidence of typhoid fever and tuberculosis caused by poor working conditions, and she was appointed to the Illinois Commission on Occupational Diseases. It was this position that allowed Hamilton to do her most groundbreaking environmental work: she studied the dangers of lead and lead poisoning. When General Motors began to put lead into gasoline, she was one of the most vocal opponents, but her arguments for alternative fuels were ignored. For more reading about Hamilton, visit the Chemical Heritage Foundation.
Rachel Carson (1907-1964)
Ecologist and writer Rachel Carson is the author of many books including Silent Spring, a famous book that described the danger of pesticides on the environment and called for a change in the way people consider nature. The publication of Silent Spring was met with violent opposition by the chemical industry, but nevertheless, in 1972 the government banned the use of DDT, the first modern pesticide. Carson spoke before Congress, asking them to institute new policies to protect mankind and the environment. To learn more about Carson’s life and legacy, visit RachelCarson.org.
Ken Saro-Wiwa (1941-1995)
Throughout his career, Nigerian journalist and writer Ken Saro-Wiwa became concerned about the ongoing struggle in Ogoni, his hometown. When Shell Petroleum started producing oil in the region, the Ogoni Chiefs complained that the company was threatening the lives of their people. Eventually more communities vocalized the same complaint, demanding their rights to clean air and water. The struggle led to the creation of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People in 1990, which Saro-Wiwa became President of, and which accused Shell and other multinational oil companies of genocide and racism. Shell did not stop its procedures, and protests erupted, until finally the area was under a military presence. After four Ogoni leaders were shot, Saro-Wiwa was arrested, tortured in prison, charged with murder and executed, despite international requests for leniency. To learn more about Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni oil struggle, visit RememberSaroWiwa.com.
Here are some more interesting sites about environmentalism.