A History of Environmental Politics Since 1945 by Samuel P. Hays

By Samuel P. Hays

An assessment of latest environmental affairs, from Nineteen Forties to the present—with an emphasis on nature in an urbanized society, land advancements, environmental expertise, the constitution of environmental politics, environmental competition, and the result of environmental policy.

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The focus of such interest increasingly was wetlands, barrens, streams, and valleys that were smaller in scope than the nation’s wildlands, but still contributed to creating an aesthetic interest in nature. One of the first public-policy arenas to display environmental values was the movement to preserve the more spectacular natural areas by establishing national parks, wilderness areas, and wild and scenic rivers. Following the creation of the first national parks in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Wilderness Act of , which established a national wilderness system on federal lands, was the culmination of three decades of activity by the Wilderness Society.

Wild and scenic rivers programs arose at the state level to protect rivers that were smaller and confined within one state’s boundaries; the larger, interstate rivers were protected under the national system. As time went on, candidates for both systems were proposed by interested citizens as quality of environment came to be defined in regional, state, even local terms. Regional interest in the protection of nature went far beyond these larger and more spectacular initiatives. In the nation’s suburban areas the task of preserving open space amid rapid urban development came to be defined as an important environmental issue in the late s.

In close tandem with increased development came expanded transportation— more and more automobiles, parking lots and garages, airports, and interstate highways. Massive innovations in transportation took place after World War II to accommodate the increasing use of passenger automobiles, trucks, and airplanes, both within and between cities. This expanded consumption was identified from the increase in passenger miles per person, and many environmental consequences resulted: air pollution from automobiles, noise from airplanes, and both pollution and noise from trucks.

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