Date of Award
Edward Van Buren
Organizations such as the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, the Boone and Crockett club, women's clubs throughout the nation, and individuals like Theodore Roosevelt, Rachel Carson, John Muir, and Richard Nixon understood the idea that human life negatively affects the environment, and used their talents and connections to solve numerous major environmental concerns. From Roosevelt's role in the creation of National Parks, to Muir's involvement in the preservation of Yosemite Valley among other notable efforts, to Rachel Carson's groundbreaking book Silent Spring that singlehandedly led to the ban of the DDT pesticide, environmentalism in the 19th and 20th centuries was a result of numerous concerned individuals alleviating national concerns through swift action.
Through their efforts, these individuals along with the millions of other environmentally-conscious citizens proved that through action, humans can enact environmental change. Such changes also demonstrate an environmentally-informed and concerned public. One that, like in the case of Silent Spring, sought-out scientific fact, accepted the findings, and called for immediate action.
Environmental efforts enacted by the conjunction of the public, media and politicians were short-lived as a new generation of environmental policy swept over the country. Compared to the swift influence and actions of Rachel Carson, Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir and Richard Nixon, this new school of environmental thought throughout the United States, alienated environmentalists, and instead, fueled by special interest, focused on the economic pitfalls of environmental efforts. Less than forty years after Nixon's resignation, vital environmental laws were repealed or redefined to favor industry practices, and the Kyoto Protocol remains unratified to this day.
In a nation with a rich history of drastic, effective environmental action, it begs the question: "Why does a majority of the American public and government continue to ignore, downplay, or outright deny the existence of global warming and climate change?” After all, for hundreds of years most rational humans have given credence to thousands of scientifically-sound theories, laws, and phenomenon from Newton's Laws of Motion and Gravitation, the effects of aerosols on the ozone, to second-hand smoke's link to cancer. So why is it so difficult to convince a nation that a phenomenon, whose cause the UN declared as "very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentration" exists?
Wegemann, Carolyn, "Lost in Translation: Environmental Communication Issues in Media and Politics" (2012). Student Theses 2001-2013. 20.