How and When Did the Environmental Movement Begin?

The original concepts of the environmental movement originated in mid-19th century Europe as a response to the Industrial Revolution. The environmental movement in the United States began in the 1960s and became widely recognized in 1970, the year of the first Earth Day celebration.

The Industrial Revolution resulted in high levels of air pollution in industrial centers throughout Europe. The degraded air quality led the middle class to demand change and inspired the first recorded environmental movement. This movement was a part of a larger philosophy called Romanticism, an intellectual, artistic, and literary movement in Europe that arose partially as a response to industrialization. Romanticism placed a high value on the beauty and wisdom inherent in nature. The actions of both the environmental and Romantic movements led many European countries to implement laws that regulated pollution. One set of laws was the Alkali Acts, passed by Britain in 1863, which controlled the levels of gaseous hydrochloric acid emitted during the production of soda ash.

The ambitions of the environmental movement grew throughout the 19th and 20th centuries all around the world. With increasing social recognition and support, more laws were enacted to prevent further damage to the environment. Many national parks and reserves were also created.

A significant landmark of the environmental movement in the United States was the release of Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring,” which revealed the negative health effects of pesticide use, especially those of DDT. Historians also consider the first Earth Day celebration on April 22, 1970, to be the official beginning of environmentalism. This Earth Day was also the first recognized convention dedicated to environmental issues.