The acme American environmental history witnessed a snowballing relationship between
land and democracy. According to McGinnis and Simpkins, the initial turning point in America’s
environmental history took shape after the arrival and occupation by the Europeans in the late
18 th century. 1 Land immediately became an issue and the movement quickly gained momentum
on how to allocate land to the famers to guarantee sustainable yield and agricultural growth.
With President Thomas Jefferson as the architect of American Environmental History, Faherty,
opines that the campaign was pretty well on course. 2 Known profoundly as one of the high-
ranking founding fathers of the nation, Jefferson spent vast time and effort thinking about the
relationship between democracy and land and how best to develop such a bond. Among the most
outstanding factors, which emerged as a preoccupation of the epoch were how best to allocate
every famer his or her fair share of the land to pursue greater economic independence. According
to Steinberg, these observations prevailed over Jefferson to turn to the Cartesian logic in pursuit
of more definite answers. 3 In particular, after the 1785 land ordinance took shape, surveyors
gained a new momentum as authorization from the government allowed them to divide land into
parcels, which accommodated every farmer and household their share of farmland. Jefferson
believed that these efforts would ensure greater freedom to facilitate the work of every American
farmer. Survey work soon materialized and the society was taking the efforts made by Jefferson
initiatives progressively. It is imperative to note that the administration ensured that these
initiatives did not interfere with the existing settlements, and where there were concerns, the
1. Melissa McGinnis and Doreen Beard Simpkins, Tacoma's Point Defiance Park: Images of America
(Arcadia Publishing, 2012), p. 7.
2. Duncan Faherty, Remodeling the Nation: The Architecture of American Identity, 1776-1858 (UPNE,
2009), p. 56.
3. Ted Steinberg, Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History (Oxford University Press, USA,
2002), p. x.
government reached out to the masses for an amicable solution to the underlying challenges.
That was, in part, Jefferson approach to ensure that land and democracy co-exist soundly in the
Another aspect within this movement was the rationalization of nature after the issuance
of the Declaration of Independence. Freedom from economic want and market liberalization was
at the epicenter of America’s search for greatness. The movement set the grid to greater
rationalization and allowed the system to bundle land in pursuit of preservation of nature. Under
these considerations, the system prevailed over the society to perceive land as the primary factor
of production. 4 As the primary factor of production, land consists of the natural resources
entrenched on it, which helps in secondary production. Accordingly, these include the living
things ingrained on land such as trees and animals, as well as, mineral reserves soils, rivers,
forests, rains, rocks, mountains, deserts, mines, seas, and climate. The late 19 th century marked
itself by another turning point, which witnessed a progressive growth of consumerism as
automobiles and a brand name of foodstuffs such as Sun-Maid raisins and Sunkist oranges
sprung up. 5 As a new economic order evolved, the system made a clear distinction between
production and consumption to enhance practice. These concepts became particularly clear as the
society sought to focus more on sustainable production to negate the growing anxiety of food
insecurity. With majority of the foodstuffs such as vegetables, fruits, meat, and fish no longer
locally produced but in far-away factory farms in regions such as North Carolina, Arkansas, and
California. One characteristic of these localities, which made them the habitat for food
production was the fact that cheap labor was abundant with sufficient sunlight for agricultural
farming. For this reason, the majority of the younger generation in the US could not immediately
4. Steinberg, Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History, p. x.
5. Ibid., p. 180.
establish from where their nourishments were coming. The increasingly consumer society
endeavored to venture in new lifestyles marked by cars as the profusion of automobiles took
shape in the 1920s. 6 With much of the society’s food coming from distant farmlands, the society
used the majority of the available lands for building and construction of houses and roads. These
advances witnessed a drastic development of suburban areas as constructors cleared the bushes
for new premises as urban sprawl took shape.
Within the mainstream American environmental history, scholarship address diverse
topics, which range from slavery, the impact of manufacturing, and the growth of scientific
innovations. Other concepts that spring from this movement include topics such as
colonialization, the industrial revolution, slavery, production, and consumerism. Other themes
include eco-friendly justice movement, internationalization, and globalization. 7 According to
Merchant, these efforts aim to establish an active area of study for students and researchers with
a keen interest in the continuing transformation of the US’ landscape, as well as, the
accompanying conflicts over the nation’s resources and conservation efforts. 8 As an area of
study, American environmental history makes good use of strategic tools and resources such as
geological and climatic data, a court of law records, archaeological accounts, as well as, the
literary works of naturalists, which seek to champion these efforts forward. American
environmental history derives its impact from a rigorous and continuous ecological research
aimed at finding a solution to the current predicaments to ensure that the existing generation does
not convey the ongoing eco-friendly challenges to the future generations. As an area of study,
scholars subdivide environmental history into three major areas including nature, humanity, and
6. Malkmes, Johannes. American Consumer Culture and Its Society: From F. Scott Fitzgerald`s 1920s
Modernism to Bret Easton Ellis`1980s Blank Fiction. Diplomica Verlag, 2011.
7. Carolyn Merchant, The Columbia Guide to American Environmental History (Columbia University
Press, 2012), p. 265.
8. Ibid., p. 272.
science. Under these considerations, view entails the environment and its change across time
including the physical impact of humankind on the quality and wellbeing of water, land, and air.
Other aspects explore how human behavior impact nature and it includes the underlying
environmental consequences of population increase, practical use of technology, as well as, the
fluctuating patterns of consumption and production. Finally, these studies delve more on how
individuals think about nature and take into consideration aspects such as their attitudes, values,
and beliefs, while considering how such factors influence human interaction with the
environment, mainly through science, religion, art, and myths.
Through its ability to enable individuals to study the different ways through which
changes have been occurring over time and shaped or conserved the natural world,
environmental historians continue to provide insights that guide scholarship into the underlying
relationships that arise between humanity and nature 9 . More importantly, these studies offer
significant insight into understanding the origins of the ongoing environmental concerns that
continue to permeate the conscience of the international community. From the pre-colonial era,
land-use by Native Americans to the current challenges, humanity has been the most defiler of
the ecosystem. These experiences are characteristic of worldwide concerns such as climate
change and global warming. Dues to these challenges, the American environmental history
brings to the fore some of the contentious issues such as sustainable production practices and
habitat preservation through the expulsion of populations from national parks and water
catchment areas. 10 In other instances, these efforts endeavor to regulate population growth while
considering the formative forces of race, gender, and class.
9. Merchant, The Columbia Guide to American Environmental, p. 80.
10. Frank Spalding, Catastrophic Climate Change and Global Warming (The Rosen Publishing Group,
2010), p. 10.
The relationship between land and democracy plays out largely in a discourse that
touches on American environmental history. The fact that all forms of life derive their livelihood
from the natural environment makes it necessary to guarantee the quality of nature. These efforts
are in reaction to the degenerative nature of humanity to provide populations with a constant
reminder of the need to look for better ways that do not harm lives while relating to the
environment. Among the prospects of American environmental history is the push to use
innovative alternative technologies in liberating populations from overdependence on the natural
resources while providing them with a means to establish sustainable production mechanisms.
Faherty, Duncan. Remodeling the Nation: The Architecture of American Identity, 1776-1858.
Malkmes, Johannes. American Consumer Culture and Its Society: From F. Scott Fitzgerald`s
1920s Modernism to Bret Easton Ellis`1980s Blank Fiction. Diplomica Verlag, 2011.
McGinnis, Melissa and Doreen Beard Simpkins. Tacoma's Point Defiance Park: Images of
America. Arcadia Publishing, 2012.
Merchant, Carolyn. The Columbia Guide to American Environmental History. Columbia
University Press, 2012.
Spalding, Frank. Catastrophic Climate Change and Global Warming. The Rosen Publishing
Steinberg, Ted. Down to Earth: Nature's Role in American History. Oxford University Press,