In the United States, many of the initiatives to protect nature began among
urban elites. Though several ­factors contributed to the rise of pro-­environmental
be­ h av­ io r, the way elites perceived and related to the city was an impor­ t ant di-
mension of environmental protection. That is, what eventually emerged as the
conservation movement in the early twentieth ­ c entury was built on the activism
that began centuries earlier in urban areas. As cities grew, urban elites ­ w ere am-
bivalent about them. They developed what could best be described as a love-­ h ate
relationship with cities. This is not unusual: the city evokes complex emotions
in ­ p eople. On the one hand, it attracts vast numbers of ­ p eople who want to live,
work, and play in its confines, but on the other, many fear it or are repulsed by
it. Some are si­ m ul­ t ne ously attracted to and repelled by it.
Elites ­ were among the latter group: the city both fascinated and troubled
them. Their desire to enrich themselves, build power­ful financial institutions,
flex their industrial muscles, use their publications to broadcast their messages
on the grandest stages, and exert power and control over the masses drew them
to the cities. The cities also had the most luxurious homes; influential networks;
exclusive social clubs; power­ful churches; the most prestigious theaters, muse-
ums, libraries, and universities; elegantly landscaped open spaces; and unparal-
leled opportunities to innovate and execute ideas. Though elites found ­these
aspects of city life appealing, they ­were appalled and alarmed by what they
perceived as its disorderliness and rampant immorality. By the nineteenth ­ c entury,
crime, vice, riots, overcrowding, poverty, diseases and epidemics, premature death,
pollution, uncontrolled industrial development, and massive conflagrations ­ w ere
Introduction
Previous Page Next Page