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Escaping the Dark, Gray CityFear and Hope in Progressive-Era Conservation$
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Benjamin Heber Johnson

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780300115505

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300115505.001.0001

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Frontier, Market, and Environmental Crisis

Frontier, Market, and Environmental Crisis

(p.12) One Frontier, Market, and Environmental Crisis
Escaping the Dark, Gray City

Benjamin Heber Johnson

Yale University Press

This chapter discusses how a society's vision of apocalypse reflects its fundamental fears and values. The prevalence and the content of these visions suggest a number of important aspects of American environmental thought and reform. In the most obvious sense, these visions reflected a growing preoccupation with questions of nature and the fragility of civilization. Even when their worries did not reach the level of the apocalyptic, Americans talked about environmental changes—the cutting of forests and the fouling of urban waterways. Humanity was often at the mercy of nature in these stories, but at other times seemed to cause its own demise. Furthermore, these visions were warnings of social conflict as much as they were of purely environmental problems. Social antagonism frequently accompanied environmental destruction.

Keywords:   apocalyptic visions, American environmental thought, nature, civilization, forest cutting, urban waterways, social antagonism

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