The Rise of the American Conservation Movement describes the movement of
elites from teeming, polluted, and disorderly cities to the urban fringes and rural
suburbs, and eventually to remote areas. This outward movement occurred for
a variety of reasons, including concerns about safety, status, and taste; quest
for cleaner environments; improved health and well- being; the need for more
space; access to greater recreational opportunities; dwindling wildlife stocks;
and westward expansion. Those most likely to go searching for wild nature were
affluent, well educated, or well connected socially and po litically. Some of the
outward bound were also ideological thinkers who openly criticized industrial-
ism and promoted rural and wilderness lifestyles as antidotes to the perceived
ills of the city.
In Amer i ca, the Transcendentalists were among the first to openly express
their concerns about creeping industrialization and environmental degrada-
tion and suggest people turn away from the cities as a means of combating the
conditions brought on by unfettered industrial growth. They tried to attain the
idealized lifestyle they wrote about by moving from cities and relocating in vil-
lages and small towns. Though Transcendentalism captured the imagination of
some of the leading thinkers in New England, the movement was constrained
by its focus on theoretical ideas and individual action as the key to societal trans-
formation. Transcendentalists published journals and newsletters, but these
were not aimed at a mass audience. Likewise, there were some collective efforts
among Transcendentalists to build utopian communities, but these were short
lived and not particularly successful.
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