Geography, Environment and Society
industrial output, wild grasses, indigenous animals, ecological systems, Great Plains
When European settlers first arrived in what would become the United States, they found an environment rich in natural resources. Succeeding generations of Americans took full advantage of these resources. The United States became a major agricultural producer and later emerged as the world’s leading industrial nation.
As the U.S. economy developed, the nation’s natural environment changed dramatically. Farms and ranches replaced the vast forests of the North and Northeast and the wild grasses of the Great Plains. Wildlife was affected, too, as trapping, hunting, and the encroachment of human settlements reduced the populations of many indigenous animals. In the 20th century, industrial output rose sharply in the nation as urban centers expanded and the population exploded. Pollution increased correspondingly.
A movement to conserve America’s wilderness areas first gained momentum in the later half of the 19th century, and the government set aside selected areas as wilderness reserves. Little was done to address the issue of pollution, however, until the 1960s, when the deteriorating environment became a matter of intense public debate. As a result, the government took action to preserve wildlife, reduce pollution, and design policies that would lessen the impact of human activity on ecological systems. By the end of the 20th century, significant efforts at conservation and at wise management of the environment were under way. Yet at the same time a variety of complex environmental issues, many of them international in scope, still lay ahead.
>> Transformation of the American Landscape
>> Early Conservation Movement
>> Industrialization, Urban Growth, and Pollution
>> Growth of Environmental Awareness
>> Environmental Legislation
>> Emerging Problems
>> Environmental Controversies
>> International Issues
>> The U.S. Environment at the Close of the 20th Century
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