Driven Wild: How the Fight against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement

Overview

In its infancy, the movement to protect wilderness areas in the United States was motivated less by perceived threats from industrial and agricultural activities than by concern over the impacts of automobile owners seeking recreational opportunities in wild areas. Countless commercial and government purveyors vigorously promoted the mystique of travel to breathtakingly scenic places, and roads and highways were built to facilitate such travel. By the early 1930s, New Deal public works programs brought these ...

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Overview

In its infancy, the movement to protect wilderness areas in the United States was motivated less by perceived threats from industrial and agricultural activities than by concern over the impacts of automobile owners seeking recreational opportunities in wild areas. Countless commercial and government purveyors vigorously promoted the mystique of travel to breathtakingly scenic places, and roads and highways were built to facilitate such travel. By the early 1930s, New Deal public works programs brought these trends to a startling crescendo. The dilemma faced by stewards of the nation's public lands was how to protect the wild qualities of those places while accommodating, and often encouraging, automobile-based tourism. By 1935, the founders of the Wilderness Society had become convinced of the impossibility of doing both.

In Driven Wild, Paul Sutter traces the intellectual and cultural roots of the modern wilderness movement from about 1910 through the 1930s, with tightly drawn portraits of four Wilderness Society founders--Aldo Leopold, Robert Sterling Yard, Benton MacKaye, and Bob Marshall. Each man brought a different background and perspective to the advocacy for wilderness preservation, yet each was spurred by a fear of what growing numbers of automobiles, aggressive road building, and the meteoric increase in Americans turning to nature for their leisure would do to the country’s wild places. As Sutter discovered, the founders of the Wilderness Society were "driven wild"--pushed by a rapidly changing country to construct a new preservationist ideal.

Sutter demonstrates that the birth of the movement to protect wilderness areas reflected a growing belief among an important group of conservationists that the modern forces of capitalism, industrialism, urbanism, and mass consumer culture were gradually eroding not just the ecology of North America, but crucial American values as well. For them, wilderness stood for something deeply sacred that was in danger of being lost, so that the movement to protect it was about saving not just wild nature, but ourselves as well.

University of Washington Press

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

Sutter ably demonstrates that all four founders of the Wilderness Society feared that roads and cars were destroying the last remnants of American wilderness, abetted by government's willingness to encourage modernization and tourism. Nicely written; extensively referenced.

Historical Geography

Driven Wild is a fresh look at the origins of the wilderness movement that deserves a place on the shelf of both geographers and historians..An excellent addition to conservation literature.

Electronic Green Journal

Driven Wild is an outstanding scholarly achievement and is one of the best books ever written about environmental politics..[It] deserves to be read by a wide audience; there is no doubt that its conclusions are important and will frame further discussions about this aspect of American environmental history and policy.

H-Net Book Review

A superb study..Sutter's historical reexamination of the origins of wilderness policy is the most sophisticated and thorough entry in the historiography of wilderness that I have yet seen. As such, it is a must read for environmental historians.

The Journal of Arizona History

Driven Wild is essential reading for all those interested in the history of conservation and the cultural development of the wilderness ideal. It ably illustrates how far the automobile shapes not just our cities and our civilization, but also our visions of nature.

Booknews
For his Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Kansas (no date noted), Sutter (history , U. of Georgia) investigated how a nation founded on antipathy for the wilderness had come to cherish and protect it less than two centuries later. He found the conventional answers convincing but insufficient. Digging deeper, he noticed how early calls for wilderness preservation condemned automobiles, roads, and the US government's eagerness to modernize and mechanize roadless areas. Here, he says, is where the modern wilderness movement was ignited. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780295982205
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press
  • Publication date: 9/4/2004
  • Series: Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books
  • Pages: 360
  • Sales rank: 1,171,146
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul S. Sutter is associate professor of history at the University of Georgia.

University of Washington Press

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Table of Contents

Foreword: Why Worry about Roads, by William CrononAcknowledgmentsThe Problem with WildernessKnowing nature through Leisure: Outdoor Recreation during the Interwar YearsA Blank Spot on the Map: Aldo LeopoldAdvertising the Wilde: Robert Sterling YardWilderness as Regional Plan: Benton MacKayeThe Freedom of the Wilderness: Bob MarshallEpilogue: A Living WildernessNotesSourcesIndex

University of Washington Press

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