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date: 06 February 2023

Working-Class Environmentalism in Americafree

Working-Class Environmentalism in Americafree

  • Scott DeweyScott DeweyUniversity of Minnesota Law School


“Working-Class Environmentalism in America” traces working Americans’ efforts to protect the environment from antebellum times to the present. Antebellum topics include African American slaves’ environmental ethos; aesthetic nature appreciation by Lowell, Massachusetts “mill girls” working in New England’s first textile factories; and Boston’s 1840s fight for safe drinking water. Late-19th-century topics include working-class support for creating urban parks, workers’ early efforts to confront urban pollution and the “smoke nuisance,” and the exploration of conservationist ideas and policies by New England small farmers and fishermen in the late 1800s.

In the early 20th century, working-class youth, including immigrants and African Americans, participated in the youth camping movement and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, while working-class adults and their families, enjoying new automobility and two-day weekends, discovered picnicking, car-camping, and sport hunting and fishing in newly created wilderness preserves. Workers also learned of toxic dangers to workplace safety and health from shocking stories of 1920s New Jersey “radium girls” and tetraethyl lead factory workers, and from 1930s Midwestern miners who went on strike over deadly silicosis. The 1930s United States rediscovered natural resource conservation when the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) employed millions of working-class youth. Lumber workers advocated federal regulation of timber harvesting.

Postwar America saw the United Auto Workers (UAW), United Steelworkers (USWA), Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW), American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and other labor unions lobbying for wilderness and wildlife preservation, workplace and community health, and fighting air and water pollution, while the United Farmworkers (UFW) fought reckless pesticide use, and dissidents within the United Mine Workers (UMW) sought to ban surface coal mining. Radical organizations explored minority community environmentalism and interracial cooperation on environmental reform. Following post-1970s nationwide conservative retrenchment, working-class activists and communities of color fought toxic wastes and explored environmental justice and environmental racism at places like Love Canal, New York and Warren County, North Carolina and formed the Blue-Green Alliance with environmentalists.


  • Labor and Working Class History
  • Environmental History

Definitional Issues: What Is Working-Class Environmentalism?

“Working-class,” “environmentalism,” “environment,” and “environmental history” are neither self-explanatory nor stable in meaning. Hence this brief definitional discussion.

“Working Class”

The term “working class” first appeared in 18th-century England to describe growing numbers of poor, property-less people who sold their labor for wages as modern capitalism evolved.1 The classic image of “the working class” might be the factory proletariat of the late-19th- and 20th-century Fordist industrial economy—vast corporate labor armies punching time clocks and drawing wages for unskilled work. Yet even in Fordism’s heyday, wage workers’ individual experiences varied widely as capitalism and its means and relations of production evolved and matured, and as proletarianization of labor spread to agriculture, mining, lumbering, and other industries and settings far from the classic urban factory.

Definitional complications increase in the pre- and post-industrial eras. Pre-industrial slaves, indentured servants, and apprentices obviously worked, as did independent small farmers, share croppers, and skilled artisans—but not as conventional wage-earners. It is unlikely they saw themselves as a single class. Some farmers, in transition, did only seasonal industrial labor and otherwise remained farmers. Although such people formed the roots of the later, more recognizable American working class, their diversity further warns against perceiving that “working class” as monolithic.

America’s postwar prosperity, which elevated most Americans to middle-class living standards, poses additional definitional dilemmas. Are blue-collar factory workers with middle-class lifestyles working class or middle class? The rise of the post-Fordist “gig” economy, redefining employees as self-employed private contractors, further complicates the traditional equation of “working class” with “wage earning.”2

Because certain ethnicities—particularly African Americans and Latinos—received far fewer benefits of postwar prosperity than other groups and remain extra-proportionally concentrated in lower-paying jobs, Americans often conflate working-class status with poverty and race or ethnicity. Yet not all people of color are poor or working class, and vice versa. For all ethnicities, reform movements and organizations often had middle-class leadership, with varying mixes of middle-class or working-class membership.

In sum, the American working class is conceptually blurred at the boundaries, has had many different faces across time and geography, and remains in flux.


“Environment” and “environmentalism” are even less straightforward. The concept of the “natural environment” emerged after World War II, while “environmentalism” referring to the natural environment first appeared in the mid-1960s.3 “Environmentalism” already had an alternate established, Progressive-Era meaning, however: the theory that humans are shaped primarily by their sociocultural and other surroundings (not by genetics). These varying definitions remain intertwined in environmental history, such that preservation of endangered species not especially concerned with the human realm, or calls for garbage cleanup or inner-city housing renovation not concerned with the natural realm, both are called “environmentalism.” Humans participate in both the natural and the more strictly human environment, and environmental historians in recent decades have largely collapsed the distinctions between these categories.

Broadly defined, environmental history potentially includes almost all history—virtually all human activity involves physical locations, natural resources, or other life forms (including microbes). The broadest definition of environmentalism—humans interacting with or being impacted by their surroundings—similarly encompasses almost everything. Recent exploration of digital “environments” complicates the issue further. Nor can a brief article summarize all human history.

This article thus relies on a conventional, historically situated definition of environmentalism: activism and concern regarding any of the various issues brought under the broad umbrella of “environmentalism” since the 1960s, including more human-focused causes such as occupational safety and health and neighborhood or historic preservation along with open space and wilderness preservation, pollution control, natural resource conservation, environmental health, and many others. Although aesthetic and outdoor recreational nature appreciation date back to ancient and prehistoric times, they are included as important roots of modern “environmentalism.” As with “working class,” “environmentalism” is conceptually blurred at its boundaries, has taken many forms, and remains in flux.

Ideally, perhaps, “environmentalism” should not consider any one issue in isolation, recognizing the ecological interconnectedness of all human/natural/environmental issues, and should require an objective concern for the overall environment’s health independent from, sometimes even in opposition to, strictly human purposes and desires. Yet in practice, human individuals and groups of all classes and ethnicities have shown great difficulty transcending human concerns to “think like a mountain,” to use Aldo Leopold’s memorable phrase.4 As with the pursuit of justice, full environmental awareness remains a work in progress, a goal toward which humans appropriately strive even as it stays maddeningly out of our reach. This article addresses working-class Americans’ struggles and achievements toward that goal.

The 19th Century

English scholar Edward Palmer Thompson traced “the making of the English working class” from the late 1700s through the 1830s–1840s, by which time England had extensive industrial districts populated with impoverished factory workers readily recognizable as “working-class.”5

The process took longer in North America, where less population and more land and natural resources allowed most early Anglo-Americans to live as farmers, while industrialization and urbanization came later to most US territory. England was predominantly urban by the mid-1800s, but the United States only reached that point officially in 1920, after extensive urbanization and industrialization in the late 1800s. American agriculture also mostly did not see vast “factories in the field” using proletarianized labor until the early 20th century.6

The Antebellum Years: Early Inklings

Colonial American apprentices’ and indentured servants’ attitudes toward nature remain to be researched. However, scholars have begun exploring the “environmental ethos” of an emblematic and tragic American proto-working-class population—African American slaves. Rural slaves and field hands supplemented their meager rations by hunting, fishing, and tending their own garden plots and, in turn, they developed a heightened sensitivity to the patterns and rhythms of their surrounding flora and fauna. Mastery of forest-lore, including elements of folk wisdom brought from Africa along with new observations and techniques developed in America, not only aided survival under slavery but also represented a tacit form of resistance to planter authority and sometimes facilitated escape.7 Slaves also participated, unwillingly, in some of the earliest American conservation efforts. From the late 1700s onward, southern planters concerned about soil exhaustion from relentless plantation agriculture experimented with techniques to restore soil nutrients. Plantation slaves provided the labor for such efforts.8

During the early 1800s, a more modern, English-style factory wage labor force was emerging in New England, the earliest part of America to follow England toward factory industrialization. The Lowell, Massachusetts “mill girls,” most of them recent migrants from the countryside, endured long, dreary workdays in the nation’s first textile factories and turned to nature appreciation and writing both for solace and release and to rhetorically challenge and resist the growing harshness of urban industrial capitalism—adding a distinctly working-class aspect to usually more bourgeois, Romantic-era aesthetic nature appreciation.9

Antebellum workers also fought for safe drinking water. In 1840s Boston, an inadequate water supply produced a political battle between supporters of a publicly owned municipal water system and advocates of private control. Boston’s already substantial working-class population strongly favored public ownership and viewed drinking water as a public commons and public right, and they cooperated with middle-class reformers to prevail in a fight presaging later environmental justice campaigns.10

The Late 19th Century

Despite glimmers of environmental awareness among antebellum working people, anything resembling conservation or environmentalism likely remained an exception to the overall rule in America among people of all classes throughout most of the 19th century, as an insatiable hunger for land and natural resources brought rapid, often reckless resource exploitation across the continent. Throughout the 1800s, probably most working people shared the national enthusiasm for rapid economic development and hoped to share in resulting prosperity. Workers thus often may have shared management’s pro-growth ideology and sense of a mission to “tame the wilderness.” For workers exposed to dangerous or unhealthful working conditions, a traditional manliness ethic instructed them to bear the risks without complaining, like soldiers on a battlefield.11 Similarly, where working-class neighborhoods and families were exposed to heavy industrial smoke or other pollutants, the pro-growth ethos customarily wrote off such burdens as a small sacrifice for the greater goal of economic growth and prosperity.12 Such attitudes often persisted into the postwar era.13 Yet inklings of working-class environmentalism continued to take root and grow.

Early Natural Resource Conservation

Nineteenth-century Americans of all classes shared a general expectation of relatively easy access to rich natural resources, together with a widespread, quasi-religious assumption that the proper purpose of such resources was human economic consumption. Thus early conservation initiatives to preserve wildlife species or wilderness areas or regulate timber harvesting, usually spearheaded by middle-class professionals and reformers, often drew suspicion and hostility from lower-income local residents who feared threats to their livelihoods, such as subsistence or market hunters or lumberjacks.14 Nevertheless, the late 19th century saw more early roots of American working-class environmentalism emerge—some even in support of conservation.

One example involved New England fisheries. Early conservation-conscious fishermen might have seen themselves more as small independent producers rather than wage earners, yet they recognized a fundamental threat to the resource they depended upon due to wasteful, destructive practices by larger-scale fishing operations, particularly weirs and traps that indiscriminately took spawning or breeding fish and threatened to ruin both the fisheries and small fishermen. Such fishermen mostly sought to preserve local control over fisheries from non-local, industrial-scale operations. Yet they recognized the need for more ecologically sensitive limitations on human exploitation of a finite resource.15 New England small farmers similarly explored conservationist ideas in seeking to preserve traditional commons areas.16

Urban Parks

Urban parks formed another issue where working-class Americans differed with upper-middle-class reformers about the correct approach to “nature” and use of natural resources. As America’s industrial cities became ever-more crowded, squalid, and gritty during the late 1800s, reformers sought to reintroduce “nature” into urban areas through parks providing green spaces for rest, reflection, and relief from the surrounding urban hubbub. The reformers’ vision of parks was the closest possible approximation of peaceful, green countryside. In places such as Worcester, Massachusetts, working-class, largely immigrant communities also badly wanted more urban parkland, but rather than the reformers’ quiet, contemplative model, workers preferred parks with baseball fields, playgrounds, and other such noisier, livelier recreation opportunities.17 While working people favored more “human,” less “natural” parks than reformers did, either sort of park represented a planned, deliberate human creation and intervention—what William Cronon labeled “second nature.”18 Yet the park debate found working-class Americans actively supporting open space preservation while also moving toward later, 20th-century working-class support of wilderness preservation (see figure 1).

Figure 1. Picnic at Miller Park, Bloomington, Illinois, employees aid society of H. Mueller Manufacturing Company, c. 1910; Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, public domain.

Urban and Industrial Pollution

The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw early challenges to the traditional gospel of economic growth in America’s industrial cities, as public health and urban cleanliness reformers, frequently middle-class women, campaigned against the urban “smoke nuisance.”19 Such reformers saw heavy smoke palls not as emblems of pride and prosperity but as wasted fuel, economic damage, and a health scourge. Local industrial interests typically balked at cleanup, warning that increased production costs might force factory shutdowns and worker layoffs. Industrial workers were sensitive to such arguments and typically favored atmospheric clean-up only if it would not dampen industrial employment and wages.20

Facing this conundrum, some workers joined forces with a moderate, technologically oriented wing of the smoke control movement led by engineers, who hoped to introduce cleaner, more efficient combustion equipment and techniques while recapturing control costs through improved fuel combustion, thereby abating the nuisance without hampering economic growth. Skilled workers in Pittsburgh in the late 1800s adopted this approach to smoke control, as did locomotive firemen on the Pennsylvania Railroad in the early 20th century.21 Although early smoke control equipment never significantly abated the urban smoke nuisance, which plagued America’s industrial cities until after World War II, workers’ exploration of technological pollution control was another root of working-class environmentalism.

The Early 20th Century


Following smaller-scale, earlier antecedents, the first three decades of the 20th century saw the rapid rise of the national camping movement, including the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America and other organizations. The camping movement followed the earlier urban parks movement in believing that spending time outdoors in natural surroundings would physically, mentally, and spiritually rejuvenate urban dwellers.22 Although camping started as character-building outdoor nature experience for middle-class youth, middle-class reformers soon also embraced it as a way to uplift and redirect working-class youth away from the squalor and sin of America’s dirty, overcrowded industrial quarters. In particular, and especially from World War I onward, such reformers saw camping as a healthy and appropriate way to “Americanize” immigrant youth.23

Youth summer camps became popular, with the total number nationwide growing from less than one hundred in 1900 to more than one thousand by 1918 and several thousand by the 1930s.24 For urban immigrant working-class youth in particular, such summer camps were often a first opportunity to experience life away from noisy, crowded urban areas and cramped dwellings. Girls’ camps remained more restrained than boys’ camps, and working-class girls often had greater difficulty getting away from immigrant families and cultures, yet even many immigrant daughters got to experience camping (see figure 2).25 If working-class youth enjoyed these experiences, they also breathed in the wider societal belief that experiencing nature was a beneficial, even necessary part of creating sound human beings.

Figure 2. First Lady Grace Coolidge with girl scouts, October 17, 1923; Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Reproduction Number LC-DIG-npcc-09722, public domain.

Summer camps came to have a particularly special, lasting meaning for one of the poorest and most urbanized immigrant groups—the Jews. Jewish philanthropists actively created camps to serve their poorer co-religionists, and during the early 20th century, Jewish summer camp became an important rite of passage for Jewish boys and girls. Jews also created some of the earliest radical labor summer camps, which combined outdoor activities and nature appreciation with radical labor mobilizing and helped inspire later Communist and labor union summer camps.26

The Working Class Discovers Wilderness Enjoyment

Ultimately, working-class adults also joined the camping movement. Into the early 20th century, factory workers, trapped in urban areas working long hours and six-day weeks, had little hope of visiting wilderness preserves and took little interest in them. This changed by the 1920s, though, as a revolution in affordable mobility—the Ford Model T, plus the gradual expansion of roads, highways, and gas stations—and the emergence of the two-day weekend increasingly let urban workers expand their horizons beyond their neighborhoods and workplaces. Working-class families gradually joined the stream of middle-class visitors to regional parks and campsites; they also joined in the formerly middle-class pastimes of sport hunting and fishing.27 Urban working-class families thus became part of the political constituency supporting increased wilderness preservation efforts, a process that grew through the 1930s and postwar decades. New York’s multi-term Democratic Governor Al Smith mustered major popular political support—and working-class votes—for a multi-year 1920s campaign to increase state parkland and make it accessible to urban working-class New Yorkers.28 Notably, in Chicago and elsewhere, immigrant communities bearing homeland traditions of nature enjoyment may have preceded native-born Anglos in this trend.29

African Americans also joined in this process. Middle-class blacks had earlier started enjoying nature in resort areas; after World War I, their working-class counterparts followed them. African Americans rich and poor still frequently encountered racial discrimination and abuse in seeking the sorts of outdoor opportunities that were increasingly available to whites of all ethnicities. Yet they valued nature experiences enough that they persisted nonetheless.30 Similarly, although the early Boy Scouts of America initially was unsure about including African American boys, African American families and communities nevertheless found ways to participate (see figure 3).31

Figure 3. Boy scouts of troop 446, Ida B. Wells Housing Project, Chicago, Illinois, March 1942; Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Reproduction Number LC-USW3-000123-D, public domain.

Pollution and Workplace Dangers

Working-class anti-pollution conservationism presaging later anti-pollution activism resurfaced in the oil fields of 1920s southern California, where oil workers union locals and members led their working-class communities in successfully championing new regulations on nearby drilling that had covered their homes and neighborhoods in oil and debris.32

The 1920s also witnessed occupational health tragedies that likely helped sensitize other workers to toxic workplace dangers. The “radium girls,” young female factory workers who applied radium paint to create glow-in-the-dark timepieces and instrument dials at a New Jersey factory, soon developed “phossy jaw” and other crippling deformities due to radium ingested during their work.33 Also in New Jersey, industrial workers making tetraethyl lead to increase octane in gasoline for all the new automobiles that other workers were building (and buying) died or went insane.34 These stories, widely reported in New York, New Jersey, and nationwide media, provided two especially salient examples of a gradually growing drumbeat of working-class concern over hazardous working conditions, led especially by radical unions during the 1920s and 1930s.35

The 1930s: Rediscovering Conservation

The economic catastrophe of the Great Depression helped bring a nationwide resurgence of both the wilderness preservation and nature appreciation and the economic resource conservation prongs of the turn-of-the-century conservation movement. Working-class Americans participated in this revival in various ways.

The best-known example is the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)—the New Deal program that sent millions of young American men of all backgrounds, the majority from urban areas, to rural locations to work on a wide range of natural resource conservation projects, from soil erosion control and reforesting cutover land to creating parks and scenic highways. A pet project of President Franklin Roosevelt from his earlier days in New York State politics, it combined the health- and character-building aspects of the scouting movement with conservation goals and values.36 It would also allow the young men to receive money for their work to send home to needy parents and families when nationwide unemployment was at emergency levels. It also offered relatively humane “Americanization” for immigrant youth, as young men from various ethnic and religious backgrounds worked and lived together in CCC camps and barracks.37

This Depression-driven extension of the scouting and camping movement proved enormously popular, particularly with working-class families.38 Participants both experienced nature and breathed in conservation values while taking pride in the restorative work they were doing—and the muscles they built (see figure 4).39 Resource conservation values were boosted as part of general American values, shared by Anglos and immigrants alike.

Figure 4. Civilian Conservation Corps members at work, Prince George’s County, Maryland, August 1935; Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Reproduction Number LC-DIG-fsa-8a00075, public domain.

The CCC experience was relatively harmonious and without prejudice. However, as with most of American history and even relatively progressive programs, the CCC did not extend the program’s full benefits and opportunities equally to African American youth. Black CCC participants’ jobs were more limited, and they sometimes worked in segregated camps. Many African American volunteers nevertheless seized the opportunities that were available.40

Along with the CCC’s nationalized nature appreciation, working Americans explored the roots of environmentalism in other ways during the “Dirty Thirties.” Strikingly, during the late 1930s, the International Woodworkers of America (IWA) went diametrically against their timber industry employers’ economic interests by sharply criticizing the industry’s wasteful practices and calling for an end to clear-cutting, introduction of sustainable-yield forestry, and increased federal regulation of timber-cutting practices even on privately owned land. This bold move made IWA the first international union to declare natural resource regulation central to its official policy platform and represented an effort to assure the quality and sustainability of both lumbermen’s jobs and the natural resource on which those jobs relied.41

The 1930s: Worker Safety and Health

Harsh economic realities and high unemployment in the 1930s, followed by patriotic production for the “Arsenal of Democracy” during World War II, likely dampened worker and union complaints about unhealthful workplaces and working conditions. Yet in some industries, workers had a general awareness that certain departments were more toxic than others, and the poorest, most desperate workers with the bleakest employment opportunities were relegated to them. That is why, for example, African American workers tended to be concentrated in the auto industry’s heavily polluted, inadequately ventilated paint-spraying booths and foundries—and why Anglo-American and white immigrant workers sought to avoid or escape those divisions.42

Other workers did more than vote with their feet. During the 1930s, Midwestern lead and zinc miners first mobilized, then went on strike, regarding atrocious working conditions and lack of ventilation that rapidly produced debilitating or fatal silicosis.43

The Early Postwar Years, 1945–1960

America’s sudden entry into World War II in December 1941, together with the start of major national military rearmament earlier and frantic rearmament later, temporarily shifted Americans’ attention away from the sorts of issues that would later come under the umbrella of environmentalism: natural resource conservation, park and wilderness enjoyment, occupational health and safety, public and community health, and pollution control. Yet seeds planted in the 1930s, 1920s, or earlier would grow into an increasingly active, powerful, multifaceted postwar working-class environmentalism including strong participation by major labor unions.

Because the Detroit auto industry produced one of the nation’s most powerful, progressive, pro-environmental labor unions—the United Auto Workers (UAW)—and because the UAW’s environmental role has received more scholarly attention than most other unions, much of the following discussion emphasizes that city and union.

Postwar Working-Class Wilderness Enjoyment

Workers during the 1930s—at least those with jobs—continued to enjoy expanded access to automobiles, two-day weekends, and paid vacation over that decade. Many used that time for family camping or picnicking, along with sport hunting and fishing.44 Following the UAW’s founding in 1935, by 1939 the union created its Recreation Department to help provide entertainment, education, and socialization opportunities for members and their families, including indoor or outdoor sports, arts and crafts, and various other activities along with wilderness outings.45

The war’s end brought a rapid surge in working-class hunting and fishing, together with heightened awareness of the need to preserve habitat for fish, waterfowl, and other game species. This included a seemingly new sensitivity to the need to protect that habitat from industrial pollution and wastes, as the major wartime and postwar expansion of US industry brought it into ever-closer contact with formerly remote wildlife habitats. Thus already in the spring of 1948, members of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC), a large sportsmen’s group comprised primarily of working-class members, many of them union members, dramatically dumped one thousand dead ducks by the Michigan State Capitol to protest tens of thousands of other birds killed by a toxic industrial pollution discharge in downriver Detroit. From the 1940s onward, MUCC and similar local groups fought to establish and preserve the Pointe Mouillée Wildlife Refuge from urban and industrial development and pollution and maintain access for downriver Detroit’s working-class population.46 This included defying industry lobbyists by helping to pass a pioneering 1949 Michigan water pollution control law. Other regions saw similar activism.

Also from the early postwar years onward, the UAW and its Recreation Department established UAW summer camps for union members and their children and urged local, state, and federal governments to preserve more parkland. Other international and local unions around the nation, including the newly merged American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), similarly supported state and federal wilderness preservation during the late 1950s.47

Workplace and Community Health and Anti-Pollution Activism

Another prewar seed of working-class environmentalism that blossomed in the postwar era involved heightened union and working-class awareness of occupational safety and health and wider public and community health. Building on the example of various New Deal programs and earlier corporate paternalist experiments, postwar American unions generally—and the UAW particularly—called for expanded public access to health care and established some of the first health maintenance organizations to provide members with quality health care at reduced cost. In 1948, the UAW’s Industrial Health and Safety Division employed a full-time industrial hygienist, apparently the first time an international union had done so. By the 1950s, the UAW was backing its workers in bringing lawsuits for health injuries from workplace exposure to toxic substances.48

American workers and unions got a sharp kick toward further occupational and community health awareness from the Donora air pollution disaster of October 1948, when a working-class industrial suburb of Pittsburgh suffered a five-day atmospheric inversion layer that trapped industrial emissions close over the city, killing twenty residents and sickening thousands (see figure 5). Donora, together with the much larger and widely reported London, England “killer smog” of 1952, emphasized that industrial smoke was not just a harmless, welcome symbol of industrial prosperity, as many workers earlier had accepted. A United Steelworkers of America (USWA) local led the international union in demanding a full inquiry into the incident, then conducted its own independent study when the official study was a whitewash. The Donora incident helped push the USWA to join the UAW, the International Association of Machinists (IAM), and the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers (OCAW) as among the most environmentally activist industrial labor unions in postwar America.49

Figure 5. The Wire Mill, Donora, Pennsylvania, 1910; Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Reproduction Number LC-USZ62-131258, public domain.

During the 1950s, UAW was a dogged opponent of the construction and start-up of the Fermi 1 experimental nuclear breeder reactor near Detroit, warning of risks to local residents from radiation emissions and possible reactor core meltdown or explosion. The union developed its health-based critique at length and in detail during a five-year fight against the reactor from 1956–1961 that reached the US Supreme Court. Later events also justified UAW’s concerns about Fermi 1.50

Unions outside the industrial heartland showed similar early anti-pollution concerns. In Florida, phosphate industry workers’ concern over workplace and community pollution from industry emissions led the International Chemical Workers’ Union to formally request a state and federal investigation of phosphate industry emissions in 1957; the union agitated over the issue for years.51 Mine and smelter workers in Anaconda, Montana included workplace and community environmental conditions in their bargaining with management from the 1950s onward.52 On the national stage, the AFL-CIO actively supported proposed federal water pollution control legislation in 1956, the year after its founding merger, then sent representatives to Washington, DC to support federal action against air and water pollution in 1958.53

The 1960s and Early 1970s

A Rising Tide

The 1960s–1970s saw a dramatic flowering of environmental awareness, not only regarding various issues individually but with a new sense of their interconnectedness, thanks substantially to Americans’ introduction to ecological ideas during the postwar decades. Working-class Americans and labor unions joined in this process.

The 1960s began with the culmination of postwar federal wilderness preservation efforts as well as the continuation of initially tentative, gradually expanding federal intervention regarding air and water pollution, problems formerly left to state and local governments. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) regularly lobbied and testified for such initiatives, unlike industrial employers.54

Other working-class Americans took action in other ways. Presaging later environmental justice campaigns, in 1963, Ann Belcher, a white working-class woman from a poor neighborhood of Jacksonville, Florida, conducted a letter-writing campaign and mobilized a biracial delegation of neighbors to protest local industrial pollution that damaged their homes and health before the city council.55

Union Activism

UAW (United Auto Workers) remained an environmental leader among labor organizations.56 UAW president Walter Reuther took a deep personal interest in environmental issues, and after participating in a local organization to clean up water pollution near his own Detroit neighborhood, Reuther ambitiously raised his and the UAW’s sights. In 1965, UAW hosted its United Action for Clean Water Conference, bringing together over one thousand union members and officials, community leaders, and conservationists to discuss water pollution.57 UAW activism grew, and in 1967, the union added a new Department of Conservation headed by Olga Madar, Reuther’s chief lieutenant for environmental mobilization.58 Reuther and Madar both frequently made relatively radical pro-environmental public statements and envisioned a mass mobilization of citizens to confront interwoven social, environmental, and public health problems. In February 1970, UAW co-hosted the nation’s first “teach-in” on the environment at the University of Michigan, two months before the much larger event known as Earth Day. Later, in June 1970, two months after Earth Day and Reuther’s death in a plane crash, UAW hosted its first Black Lake Conference—“Working for Environmental and Economic Justice and Jobs”—bringing together union leaders and members with community leaders, environmentalists, and student activists.59

Other strong, pro-environmental leaders emerged in other unions during the 1960s, notably OCAW (Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers), USWA (United Steelworkers), and IAM (International Association of Machinists). Anthony Mazzocchi, citizenship director and later vice president of OCAW, helped stimulate many environmentally progressive initiatives within his union and regularly made relatively radical public statements about environmental reform.60 Mazzocchi also helped get cooperation from traditional conservationist organizations such as the Sierra Club in securing passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970. The OCAW later undertook one of the era’s most dramatic labor-environmental campaigns—the 1973 strike and boycott against Shell Oil regarding workplace and general environmental conditions.61

Along with these various industrial unions, the nation’s leading agricultural union, the United Farmworkers (UFW), under union president Cesar Chavez and his lieutenants, combined the issues of worker safety and health with environmental contamination in struggling against reckless use of pesticides during the late 1960s and early 1970s.62

The United Mineworkers (UMW), trapped in a faltering industry beset by economic threats on many sides as other energy sources gradually replaced coal, and long stuck with corrupt, pro-industry leadership, was less environmentally progressive than most unions. Yet during the 1960s and 1970s, UMW members challenged surface mining, from a combination of horror at resulting landscape devastation and a desire to preserve underground mining jobs, in protests that sometimes included sabotage of strip mining equipment; dissident union members also defied coal companies by successfully lobbying for federal legislation regarding black lung disease.63

Individual union members also made statements and took action on pollution during the 1960s and 1970s. For example, union members turned out in force to testify before a visiting US Senate subcommittee considering Clean Air Act amendments in St. Louis in 1969, complaining of terrible workplace and community pollution. Around the same time, USWA members in Peoria threatened to strike over the pollution conditions outside, not inside, their workplace.64 New York City Tunnel and Bridge Workers Union members threatened to strike for better ventilation in 1969.65 Miami-based airline pilot William Lain Guthrie led his fellow members of the Airline Pilots Association in protesting worsening air pollution causing flight hazards between 1965 and 1970.66

Radicalism and Interracial Cooperation

The late 1960s saw increased interracial cooperation on environmental issues. For instance, heavily industrial Gary, Indiana in 1967 elected an African American reform mayor, Richard G. Hatcher, who in his first term focused primarily on poverty and problems of the black community, but who by 1970 put industrial air pollution at the top of his agenda, reflecting the similar concerns of his three constituencies: middle-class whites, working-class whites, and (mostly working-class) African Americans, who all applauded his cracking down on major industrial polluters.67 Around the same time, African American fishermen in South Carolina joined with middle-class white environmentalists to resist construction of a major new industrial facility of the German-based multinational corporation BASF that threatened pollution and damage to nearby fisheries and working-class African American neighborhoods. The fishermen recognized their community’s need for economic opportunities but warned that industrial pollution would cause greater harm to the local economy and public health.68

In another striking example of working-class environmentalism stepping beyond both the Anglo population and the union context, from 1969–1972, the Young Lords, a radical youth political movement in New York City’s Puerto Rican neighborhoods, pioneered environmental justice activism by conducting dramatic protests regarding uncollected garbage and childhood lead poisoning as well as other public health risks specially afflicting their community of color.69

Similarly, notwithstanding the UAW’s leadership on environmental issues, Detroit saw the rise of rival revolutionary workers’ movements that interwove poverty and civil rights issues with environmental pollution and workplace and community health. The Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM) came first in 1968, followed by similar organizations focused on how black workers faced the worst workplace and community health conditions—and had the shortest life expectancies.70

The 1970s, 1980s, and After

Environmentalism Ebbs

As with other aspects of the 1960s movement culture/counterculture, the late-1960s surge in working-class environmentalism and radical environmentalism was relatively brief. Gradually resurgent conservatism helped elect President Richard Nixon twice. Environmentalism—originally seen by some as a tamer, safer substitute for militant civil rights and antiwar activism—drew growing resistance as environmental reform’s cost and complexity rose. During the 1970s, an array of economic troubles beset the United States even as it was still reeling from the social upheaval of the 1960s, threatening the relatively easy postwar prosperity Americans had come to take for granted. Many Americans, including workers and union members in some industries, came to resent environmentalists for obstructing proposed major development programs that promised jobs and economic growth, such as the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and the supersonic transport airplane (SST). Although labor-environmental cooperation continued on some matters, it generally waned, while a widespread assumption, shared by many working-class Americans, grew that environmental protection inevitably threatened jobs, so the interests of workers and environmentalists must be antithetical. Large numbers of blue-collar Democrats—the sort who had been elevated into the middle class by postwar prosperity and union contracts—switched parties in the 1980 presidential election to vote for the anti-union, anti-environmentalist Republican candidate, Ronald Reagan.71

While environmentalists were buffeted from the political right, they also drew resistance from the left. Notwithstanding some promising cooperation between environmentalists and civil rights activists, there was also suspicion among African Americans that environmentalism threatened to coopt or steal deserved attention away from the civil rights movement, the (faltering) War on Poverty, and the plight of inner-city communities. A black community activist even branded leading environmentalist and consumer advocate Ralph Nader a racist for diverting public attention and energy from black causes and issues—even as young activists inspired by Nader—“Nader’s Raiders”—sought to aid working-class communities on environmental and community health problems.72

While trouble brewed during the 1970s, some environmentalists, workers, and community activists tried to bridge the growing divide. In particular, Environmental Action, the relatively youthful and daring organization that grew out of the student mobilization for Earth Day, continued to work actively on workplace health and safety issues as well as industrial pollution and toxic wastes affecting poor communities, including communities of color. Environmental Action also was notably the one major conservationist or environmental organization from the 1970s era that never secured corporate foundation funding and struggled to keep going.73 Some African American civic leaders also sought to maintain cooperation with environmentalists as radicalism’s fires fizzled.74

Environmental Justice

Following dramatic legislative battles over air and water pollution, 1970s Americans and their legislators gradually discovered a less visible problem: toxic wastes. In 1976, Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) to begin to address that festering problem. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) followed in 1980 to help clean up existing major toxic dumpsites nationwide. CERCLA, a complex and problematic statute, was rushed into law both from a sense of public crisis and to get something passed before the Reagan administration took office.75

The toxic waste crisis that produced CERCLA arose from another dramatic manifestation of working-class environmentalism usually labeled either environmental justice or environmental racism. One major triggering event for this new surge in working-class environmentalism was the 1978 discovery of elevated illness and birth defects in Love Canal, a working-class suburb of Buffalo, New York, due to toxic chemicals buried there decades earlier. Most afflicted residents of Love Canal were blue-collar white homeowners, but the victims, and activists, also included largely African American residents of a nearby public housing project.76

The other best-remembered triggering event was the long battle over siting a landfill for soil contaminated with toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in poor, predominantly African American Warren County, North Carolina, from 1978 to 1982. Warren County’s black residents, suspecting they were targeted due to their race, reached out to civil rights organizations for help; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), among others, joined local residents in filing lawsuits to block the landfill project. Despite their efforts, the project was approved in 1982. Local ministers and civic leaders organized non-violent protests, including protesters lying down in the road to block PCB-laden dump trucks. Although most leaders were middle class, the participants were substantially working class. National civil rights leaders visited Warren County to support the protesters and draw national media attention.77 The struggle helped popularize the label and underlying concept of “environmental racism” and helped spur similar protests and studies of other situations where blacks, Latinos, and other people of color were exposed to statistically higher-than-average levels of pollution, toxic wastes, or other environmental burdens.78

Ironically, environmental justice activists tended to see their movement as entirely new, unprecedented, and separate from environmentalism, largely unaware of earlier efforts in similar directions such as those described in earlier sections of this article—as was unfortunately typical of local antipollution campaigns from the 1800s onward.79

The Blue-Green Alliance

The relationship between labor activists and environmentalists unquestionably suffered during the 1970s and 1980s. Yet in certain localities, regions, or industries, or on certain issues, cooperation continued and gradually (re-)grew.80 Even during the nadir of the 1980s, the OCAW (Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers) brought initially suspicious workers together with environmentalists to cooperate in successfully harnessing public environmental concerns to pressure BASF to end a lockout at a Louisiana facility.81 Such exploration of common goals helped produce, by the 1990s, the “Blue-Green Alliance”—which was largely unaware of earlier labor-environmental cooperation. This still-ongoing process produced the dramatic “Battle of Seattle” in 1999, when some forty thousand labor and environmental activists joined forces to protest the World Trade Organization’s labor and environmental policies (see figure 6).82

Figure 6. The battle of Seattle—World Trade Organization protesters sprayed with pepper spray, November 30, 1999; photo by Steve Kaiser and licensed under Creative Commons License CC BY-SA 2.0.

Elsewhere, mutual hostility remained. In the early 1990s, dramatic anger and violence between environmentalists and lumber workers over timber-harvesting policies in the Pacific Northwest supported the established narrative that labor and environmentalists were enemies. Yet even here there was cooperation between local workers and some radical environmentalists.83

The Future?

Since 2000, the Blue-Green Alliance has further explored common ground between labor and environmentalists in some contexts—though suspicion and disagreement remain in others.84 The environmental justice movement continues in America and gradually expands internationally, with occasional dramatic showdowns—such as the 2014 water contamination crisis in the low-income, predominantly African American community of Flint, Michigan and indigenous American tribes’ 2016 mobilization to resist the Dakota Access Pipeline.85 Meanwhile, economic polarization in the United States has worsened, and neoliberal ideology and corresponding pro-corporate (and generally anti-environmental, anti-labor) governmental policies have entrenched themselves ever deeper in America’s political and socioeconomic institutions. In this economic and political environment, workers and environmentalists in general, and working-class environmentalists in particular, face an ever-more uphill struggle in attaining their goals. Yet for two centuries, their predecessors, too, faced uphill struggles with courage and creativity. Hopefully present-day working-class environmentalists will uphold that tradition.

Discussion of the Literature

Environmental history remains a relatively new branch of history, with the history of working-class environmentalism newer still.

Through the late 1990s—until the 1999 “Battle of Seattle”—the history profession harbored a generalized disbelief that there could be such a thing as labor environmentalism, based on Reagan-era rhetoric that become conventional wisdom together with the bitter 1990s Pacific Northwest timber wars and other examples of friction between workers and environmentalists. Meanwhile, through the 1980s and 1990s, the environmental justice movement remained more a matter of current events than of history, focused more on race than on class, and specifically disclaiming any association with environmentalism.86 This, together with the overly rigid presumed definition of environmentalism that had become entrenched in American academia and society generally—basically, just the established, post-1970 “Big 10” environmental organizations—obscured earlier roots of working-class environmentalism.87

Leaving aside studies originally conceived as current events not history, such as Richard Kazis and Richard Grossman’s important work and most early environmental justice research, the recognition of historical working-class environmentalism mostly begins in the mid-1990s with Robert Gottlieb’s and Andrew Hurley’s pathbreaking books, followed by a trio of articles from the late 1990s focused on labor environmentalism by Scott Dewey, Robert Gordon, and Chad Montrie in Environmental History that were later flagged by the journal’s former editor, Hal Rothman, in his own work.88 The history of working-class environmentalism mostly gained traction only after 2000. As the cited sources attest, there are now many fine contributions to the literature discussing a range of issues and geographical regions from antebellum times through the present. Some such scholars have focused on the organized labor context, such as Erik Loomis, Josiah Rector, Alan Derickson, Jacquelyn Southern, and Timothy Minchin; others follow Hurley in discussing mostly non-union contexts, such as Colin Fisher, Neil Maher, Lisa Fine, Robert Gioielli, Elizabeth Blum, and Eileen McGurty; still others, such as Lawrence Lipin and Chad Montrie, address both contexts.89 Yet the relatively young field remains an intellectual “frontier,” with existing studies like frontier outposts awaiting other studies of the same or other regions, cities, industries, or time periods to confirm or challenge current ideas and populate the intellectual “wilderness.”90 Given its youth, literature in the field still mostly consists of case studies of one or a few cities, industries, regions, or institutions—and (eagerly) awaits broader, more integrative scholarship.91

As a frontier of historical research, the history of working-class environmentalism has not yet generated many of its own internal historiographical debates. It largely piggybacks on environmental history’s wider discourses and debates. It was partly an outgrowth of the (initially contested) expansion of environmental history’s boundaries beyond traditional “nature,” natural resources, and wilderness to embrace the urban environment, industrial pollution, public health, occupational environments, and such.92 Yet working-class environmentalism also includes “nature” topics. It relates to environmental historians’ recognition of human interaction with nature through work as a fundamental component of environmental history.93 Yet although, for instance, slaughtering a herd of bison or clear-cutting an old-growth forest represent interaction with nature, they likely do not constitute environmentalism.

Working-class environmentalism figures prominently in one ongoing debate—it challenges or disproves overly entrenched assumptions that environmentalism is and always has been entirely a middle-class commitment.94

Other potential debates might concern definitional issues: is certain historical behavior really “working class” or “environmentalism”? Scholars such as Louis Warren, Karl Jacoby, Matthew McKenzie, and Richard Judd discuss subsistence or market hunters, small farmers, and small commercial fishermen.95 Are such people, or mining prospectors or wildcatting lumberjacks, more like wage workers or like small-businessmen entrepreneurs? Are small farmers, who own their farms and hence some means of production, like proletarians who do not? Perhaps yes and no. Such scholars also point to a “moral economy” regulating their common people’s use of their respective resources, but Brian Payne contends that there likely was no companion “moral ecology”: local resource users may have been concerned not with preserving the resource but preserving their access to use (and ultimately perhaps overuse?) it.96 Yet regardless, such studies importantly illuminate significant roots of working-class environmentalism.

Definitional disputes might arise from changes in meaning over time or potentially anachronistic application of later terms to earlier concepts (or vice versa), clouding both meaning and communication. For example, 1900 vintage conservation was not the same as 1970 vintage environmentalism; is it appropriate to label the former the same as the latter? But 1900 vintage conservation also was not the same as 1960 vintage conservation, and 1970 vintage environmentalism was not identical to the 1966, 1986, or 2006 vintages. Such issues might impact the tacit scholarly competition to discover the earliest instances of “environmentalism” plus any lingering disagreement between those environmental historians who seek to embrace almost all history and those who support a narrower definition. As noted earlier, “environmentalism” remains difficult to pin down precisely.97

Another point for discussion: to what extent does the pioneering work of early reformers, such as Jane Addams or Dr. Alice Hamilton, represent working-class environmentalism—or middle-class environmentalism on behalf of the working class?98 Studies of the latter sort of course remain welcome contributions to environmental history regardless and also may indirectly illuminate actual working-class environmentalism through any direct or tacit evidence of either working-class support or lack of support.

Unlike most of the rest of working-class environmentalism’s history, the literature on environmental justice, whether present- or historically oriented, is comparatively voluminous, and the topic may deserve its own article. Two longstanding debates are: Is environmental justice mostly about race or class? And: Is it environmentalism?

Regarding the latter question, 1980s politics and (rigid) post-1980 understandings of environmentalism might have said no; consideration of the roots of working-class environmentalism and earlier antecedents suggests yes.99 Regarding the former question, much early scholarship saw race as the driving factor, with polluters and regulatory authorities intentionally victimizing people of color.100 Later scholars, including Hurley and Rothman, found class and poverty the main driver—poverty pushed the impoverished toward marginal housing near already existing health hazards.101 Many scholars override this distinction using a broader definition of “environmental racism” perceiving any significant race-based discrepancy in environmental hazard exposure as constituting racial discrimination, however it arose—in a nation and society in which race and class often remain almost inextricably interwoven.102 Other scholars might point to examples of environmentally blighted working-class white communities and argue that it’s really about class (and resulting poverty, limited options, and vulnerability) after all.

Primary Sources

Anyone who sets out to research working-class environmentalism should be forewarned: this is the sort of topic where primary sources may not be easy to find, because the relevant documents are less likely to leave a substantial institutional or archival footprint.

Unlike the Sierra Club, the Dow Chemical Company, or the US Department of Interior, which have each persisted for more than a century and are likely to have well-organized, well-curated archives as such, most neighborhood environmentalist organizations, working class or middle class, that organized to fight pollution, protest a particular development, whatever, likely lasted for several years at most and ceased operation after one or a few energetic activists died, retired, moved away, or grew weary of the fight. Thus many such groups never leave archival collections anywhere for later historians to study; if they do, these may be hard to find or to identify from archival finding aids.

That’s one reason historians study the major environmentalist organizations that persist over time and keep archives; it’s probably a reason why historians have had difficulty understanding the whole anti-pollution wing of the environmental movement that dominated the late 1960s and 1970s, but which was often institutionally and archivally ephemeral.

Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously observed, “All politics is local.” The same is largely true of most environmental politics that do not reach the attention of the US federal government or the Big Ten environmental groups. Thus, archival records, if they exist at all, may be scattered far and wide.

There is at least one major exception to that overall rule: the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University, which includes extensive records of the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the United Farmworkers (UFW), along with substantial archival collections from other labor unions and local and regional organizations and individuals.103 For many research projects related to labor and working-class environmentalism, the Reuther Library may be a good place to start. Other possibilities include Penn State University’s rich collection of documents from locals and officials of the United Steelworkers (USWA), United Mineworkers (UMW), and other labor organizations that may or may not include documents regarding activism on environmental issues; the Kheel Center, affiliated with Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations; the George Meany Memorial Archives at the University of Maryland, which houses the AFL-CIO’s records; and the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives at New York University.104 More archival resources specifically regarding miners and the UMW may be found at West Virginia University’s West Virginia and Regional History Center.105 Various universities may have local, state, or regional manuscript collections including archival records of labor organizations along with searchable online finding aids.106 Some state historical societies also may have helpful resources regarding labor and the working class.107 Along with collections oriented toward organized labor, oral histories of working people might include some rare gems.108 As with perhaps any historical topic only more so, researchers should watch for useful material turning up in more general collections, from the National Archives and Records Administration to the archives of former senators and congressional representatives and other federal, state, or local officials, among other possibilities.109 Also check the Society of American Archivists’ online Labor Archives Section Directory: Labor Archives in the United States and Canada for state-by-state suggestions regarding archival resources.110 Be forewarned: searches for environment-related terms in the online finding aids for various such collections often may produce very sparse results. The same likely will be true for most archives or collections related to American radicalism or working-class life.

Further Reading

This list seeks to include sources offering broader coverage of time, issues, or geography, along with some seminal early works. It thus leaves out a good many fine case studies, which can be found in the notes.

  • Bullard, Robert D., ed. The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics of Pollution. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 2005.
  • Fisher, Colin. Urban Green: Nature, Recreation, and the Working Class in Industrial Chicago. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015.
  • Gioielli, Robert R. Environmental Activism and the Urban Crisis: Baltimore, St. Louis, Chicago. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2014.
  • Glave, Dianne D., and Mark Stoll, eds. “To Love the Wind and the Rain”: African Americans and Environmental History. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006.
  • Gottlieb, Robert. Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement. Washington, DC and Covelo, CA: Island Press, 1993.
  • Hurley, Andrew. Environmental Inequalities: Class, Race, and Industrial Pollution in Gary, Indiana, 1945–1980. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.
  • Kazis, Richard, and Richard L. Grossman. Fear at Work: Job Blackmail, Labor and the Environment. New York: Pilgrim Press, 1991.
  • Lipin, Lawrence M. Workers and the Wild: Conservation, Consumerism, and Labor in Oregon, 1910–30. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007.
  • Loomis, Erik. Empire of Timber: Labor Unions and the Pacific Northwest Forests. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Maher, Neil M. Nature’s New Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Roots of the American Environmental Movement. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
  • Montrie, Chad. Making a Living: Work and Nature in the United States. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.
  • Montrie, Chad. The Myth of Silent Spring: Rethinking the Origins of American Environmentalism. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2018.
  • Obach, Brian K. Labor and the Environmental Movement. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004.
  • Pulido, Laura. Environmentalism and Economic Justice: Two Chicano Struggles in the Southwest. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1996.
  • Tompkins, Adam. Ghostworkers and Greens: The Cooperative Campaigns of Farmworkers and Environmentalists for Pesticide Reform. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 2016.


  • 1. working class, n. and adj.,” Oxford English Dictionary (online) (accessed January 31, 2019).

  • 2. Regarding the complexity and fluidity lying beneath the label “working class,” see, for example, Laura Pulido, Environmentalism and Economic Justice: Two Chicano Struggles in the Southwest (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1996), 34–40.

  • 3. environment, n.,” Oxford English Dictionary (online); and “environmentalism, n.,” Oxford English Dictionary (online), both terms accessed January 31, 2019. The New York Times Index confirms the rough timing of the appearance of “environmentalism.”

  • 4. Aldo Leopold, “Thinking Like a Mountain,” in Leopold, A Sand County Almanac (New York: Oxford University Press, 1949), 129–133.

  • 5. Edward Palmer Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York: Pantheon Books, 1964).

  • 6. History: Urban and Rural Areas,” United States Census Bureau, accessed June 29, 2018. California agriculture was precocious in developing very large, corporate-owned landholdings. Scholars such as Donald Worster and Patricia Limerick have identified cowboys as an early proletarianized rural labor force.

  • 7. Mart A. Stewart, “Slavery and African American Environmentalism,” in “To Love the Wind and the Rain”: African Americans and Environmental History, ed. Dianne D. Glave and Mark Stoll (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006), 9–17; and Scott Giltner, “Slave Hunting and Fishing in the Antebellum South,” in “To Love the Wind and the Rain”: African Americans and Environmental History, ed. Dianne D. Glave and Mark Stoll (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006), 21–36.

  • 8. Stewart, “Slavery,” 17–18.

  • 9. Chad Montrie, Making a Living: Work and Nature in the United States (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008), 13–34; and also available in Chad Montrie, “‘I Think Less of the Factory than of My Native Dell’: Labor, Nature, and the Lowell ‘Mill Girls’,” Environmental History 9, no. 2 (April 2004): 275–295. Far from mere sentimentalism, the factory workers’ writings also helped support and justify early labor agitation.

  • 10. Michael Rawson, “The Nature of Water: Reform and the Antebellum Crusade for Municipal Water in Boston,” Environmental History 9, no. 3 (July 2004): 411–435.

  • 11. See, for example, Christopher C. Sellers, Hazards of the Job: From Industrial Disease to Environmental Health Science (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 22–23.

  • 12. See, for example, Angela Gugliotta, “Class, Gender, and Coal Smoke: Gender Ideology and Environmental Injustice in Pittsburgh, 1868–1914,” Environmental History 5, no. 2 (April 2000): 167–199.

  • 13. See, for example, Sarah Lynn Cunningham, “From Smoke-Filled Skies to Smoke-Filled Rooms: Louisville’s Political Battles Over the ‘Smoke Evil’,” Ohio Valley History 8, no. 1 (Spring 2008): 43–71.

  • 14. See, for example, Karl Jacoby, Crimes against Nature: Squatters, Poachers, Thieves, and the Hidden History of American Conservation (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001); Louis S. Warren, The Hunter’s Game: Poachers and Conservationists in Twentieth-Century America (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997); and Karl Jacoby, “Class and Environmental History: Lessons from ‘The War in the Adirondacks’,” Environmental History 2, no. 3 (July 1997): 324–342. Scholars such as Jacoby and Warren, however, note that such hunters often observed traditional local community standards regarding appropriate limits on taking of game.

  • 15. Matthew G. McKenzie, Clearing the Coastline: The Nineteenth-Century Ecological and Cultural Transformation of Cape Cod (Hanover and London: University Press of New England, 2010), 106–107; Brian J. Payne, Fishing a Borderless Sea: Environmental Territorialism in the North Atlantic, 1818–1910 (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010), 128–129; Brian Payne, “Local Economic Stewards: The Historiography of the Fishermen’s Role in Resource Conservation,” Environmental History 18, no. 1 (January 2013): 29–43; and Richard W. Judd, “Grass-Roots Conservation in Eastern Coastal Maine: Monopoly and the Moral Economy of Weir Fishing, 1893–1911,” Environmental History Review 12, no. 2 (June 1988): 81–103.

  • 16. See generally Richard Judd, Common Lands, Common People: The Origins of Conservation in New England (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997).

  • 17. Roy Rosenzweig, “Middle-Class Parks and Working-Class Play: The Struggle over Recreational Space in Worcester, Massachusetts, 1870–1910,” Radical History Review 1979, no. 21 (1979): 31–46; and Roy Rosenzweig, Eight Hours for What We Will: Workers and Leisure in an Industrial City, 1870–1920 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 127–151. Regarding slightly later working-class and immigrant enjoyment of parks and outdoor recreation in Chicago, see Colin Fisher, Urban Green: Nature, Recreation, and the Working Class in Industrial Chicago (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015), 64–88.

  • 18. William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991), xvi.

  • 19. See, for example, Robert D. Grinder, “The Battle for Clean Air: The Smoke Problem in America, 1880–1917,” in Pollution and Reform in American Cities, 1870–1930, ed. Martin V. Melosi (Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1980), 83–103.

  • 20. See, for example, David Stradling, “Dirty Work and Clean Air: Locomotive Firemen, Environmental Activism, and Stories of Conflict,” Journal of Urban History 28 (2001): 38.

  • 21. Gugliotta, “Class, Gender, and Coal Smoke,” 171–175; and Stradling, “Dirty Work and Clean Air,” 41.

  • 22. Michael B. Smith, “‘The Ego Ideal of the Good Camper’ and the Nature of Summer Camp,” Environmental History 11, no. 1 (January 2006): 70–101; Ben Jordan, “‘Conservation of Boyhood’: Boy Scouting’s Modest Manliness and Natural Resource Conservation, 1910–1930,” Environmental History 15, no. 4 (October 2010): 612–642; and see also generally Benjamin René Jordan, Modern Manhood and the Boy Scouts of America: Citizenship, Race, and the Environment, 1910–1930 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

  • 23. Jordan, Modern Manhood, 155–177; Jordan, “Conservation of Boyhood,” 624–625; and Leslie Hahner, “Practical Patriotism: Camp Fire Girls, Girl Scouts, and Americanization,” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 5, no. 2 (June 2008): 113–134.

  • 24. Smith, “The Ego Ideal,” 77; and Leslie Paris, “The Adventures of Peanut and Bo: Summer Camps and Early-Twentieth-Century American Girlhood,” Journal of Women’s History 12, no. 4 (2001): 48.

  • 25. Paris, “The Adventures of Peanut and Bo,” 47–76; Hahner, “Practical Patriotism,” 113–134; and Laureen Tedesco, “Progressive Era Girl Scouts and the Immigrant: Scouting for Girls (1920) as a Handbook for American Girlhood,” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 31, no. 4 (2006): 346–368.

  • 26. Dina Kraft, “An Immigrant’s Tale: How Jewish Summer Camp Became such a Quintessential Rite of Passage for American Jews,” Ha’aretz, August 15, 2017; Dina Kraft, “Canoes, Campfires, Yiddish, and Communist Roots,” Ha’aretz, August 13, 2012; Nancy Mykoff, “Summer Camping in the United States,” Jewish Women’s Archive Encyclopedia; and Fisher, Urban Green, 130–131, 136–137. See also Paul C. Mishler, Raising Reds: The Young Pioneers, Radical Summer Camps, and Communist Political Culture in the United States (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999). Mishler addresses radical organizing and education but hardly mentions conservation, nature, or the outdoors.

  • 27. Lawrence M. Lipin, Workers and the Wild: Conservation, Consumerism, and Labor in Oregon, 1910–1930 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007), 85–152.

  • 28. Robert Chiles, “Working-Class Conservationism in New York: Governor Alfred E. Smith and ‘The Property of the People of the State’,” Environmental History 18, no. 1 (January 2013): 157–183.

  • 29. Fisher, Urban Green, 38–63.

  • 30. Fisher, Urban Green, 89–113; see also generally Brian McCammack, “Recovering Green in Bronzeville: An Environmental and Cultural History of the African American Great Migration to Chicago, 1915–1940” (PhD diss., Harvard University, 2012); and Terence Young, “‘A Contradiction in Democratic Government’: W. J. Trent, Jr., and the Struggle to Desegregate National Park Campgrounds,” Environmental History 14, no. 4 (2009): 651–682.

  • 31. Jordan, Modern Manhood, 194–213.

  • 32. Nancy Quam-Wickham, “‘Cities Sacrificed on the Altar of Oil’: Popular Opposition to Oil Development in 1920s Los Angeles,” Environmental History 3, no. 2 (April 1998): 189–209.

  • 33. Claudia Clark, Radium Girls: Women and Industrial Health Reform, 1910–1935 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1997).

  • 34. Gerald E. Markowitz and David Rosner, Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002), 17–25.

  • 35. See, for example, Josiah Rector, “Environmental Justice at Work: The UAW, the War on Cancer, and the Right to Equal Protection from Toxic Hazards in Postwar America,” Journal of American History 101, no. 2 (September 2014): 484–485.

  • 36. Neil M. Maher, Nature’s New Deal: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Roots of the American Environmental Movement (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 17–41; and Jordan, “Conservation of Boyhood,” 614, 627. Both Franklin Roosevelt and his older cousin Theodore Roosevelt were avid supporters of the Boy Scouts and of conservation projects. Robert Fechner, director of the CCC from 1933–1939, was a former vice president of the International Association of Machinists. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt also successfully petitioned for the creation of a much smaller CCC division for women.

  • 37. Maher, Nature’s New Deal, 106–113.

  • 38. Neil M. Maher, “A New Deal Body Politic: Landscape, Labor, and the Civilian Conservation Corps,” Environmental History 7, no. 3 (July 2002): 448 and generally.

  • 39. Maher, Nature’s New Deal, 109, 112–113.

  • 40. Maher, “A New Deal Body Politic,” 446; Olen Cole Jr., “African-American Youth in the Program of the Civilian Conservation Corps in California, 1933–42: An Ambivalent Legacy,” Forest and Conservation History 35, no. 3 (July 1991): 121–127; and Calvin W. Gower, “The Struggle of Blacks for Leadership Positions in the Civilian Conservation Corps: 1933–1942,” Journal of Negro History 61, no. 2 (April 1976): 123–135.

  • 41. Erik Loomis, “When Loggers Were Green: Lumber, Labor, and Conservation, 1937–1948,” Western Historical Quarterly 46, no. 4 (2015): 421–441. See also Erik Loomis, Empire of Timber: Labor Unions and the Pacific Northwest Forests (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016); and Lipin, Workers and the Wild, regarding the earlier roots of this striking development.

  • 42. Rector, “Environmental Justice at Work,” 483, 485–486; and regarding similar concentration of black workers in blast furnaces and coke plants within steel mills, see also Andrew Hurley, Environmental Inequalities: Class, Race, and Industrial Pollution in Gary, Indiana, 1945–1980 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 24–25.

  • 43. David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz, Deadly Dust: Silicosis and the Politics of Occupational Disease in Twentieth Century America (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991), 145–150.

  • 44. Montrie, Making a Living, 95–102.

  • 45. Montrie, Making a Living, 92, 103.

  • 46. Lisa M. Fine, “Workers and the Land in US History: Pointe Mouillée and the Downriver Detroit Working Class in the Twentieth Century,” Labor History 53, no. 3 (August 2012): 409–434.

  • 47. Montrie, Making a Living, 103–106; and Scott Dewey, “Working for the Environment: Organized Labor and the Origins of Environmentalism in the United States, 1948–1970,” Environmental History 3 (1998): 50–51.

  • 48. Rector, “Environmental Justice at Work,” 487–488. See also Brandon Michael Ward, “Detroit Wild: Race, Labor, and Postwar Urban Environmentalism” (PhD diss., Purdue University, 2014), 16–18, 57–59, 67–79, and generally (discussing UAW health policies and a postwar UAW-sponsored radio program warning about occupational health risks).

  • 49. Lynne Page Snyder, “‘The Death-Dealing Smog over Donora, Pennsylvania’: Industrial Air Pollution, Public Health Policy, and the Politics of Expertise, 1948–1949,” Environmental History Review 18, no. 1 (1994): 117–139; and see also Lynne P. Snyder, “The Death-Dealing Smog over Donora, Pennsylvania”: Industrial Air Pollution, Public Health, and Federal Policy, 1915–1963 (PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1994). Andrew Hurley, however, describes relatively lackluster environmental concern by USWA’s upper leadership through the 1970s. See Hurley, Environmental Inequalities, 77–98.

  • 50. Jacquelyn Southern, “Changing Nature: Union Discourse and the Fermi Atomic Power Plant,” International Labor and Working-Class History 85 (2014): 33–58; and see also, generally, John G. Fuller, We Almost Lost Detroit (New York: Reader’s Digest Press, 1975).

  • 51. Scott Hamilton Dewey, Don’t Breathe the Air: Air Pollution and U.S. Environmental Politics, 1945–1970 (College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2000), 185, 188; and Scott H. Dewey, “The Fickle Finger of Phosphate: Central Florida Air Pollution and the Failure of Environmental Policy, 1957–1970,” Journal of Southern History 65, no. 3 (August 1999): 585.

  • 52. Laurie Mercier, Anaconda: Labor, Community, and Culture in Montana’s Smelter City (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 106–108, 193.

  • 53. Dewey, “Working for the Environment,” 47–48, 49.

  • 54. Dewey, “Working for the Environment,” 48–50.

  • 55. Dewey, Don’t Breathe the Air, 234; and Scott Hamilton Dewey, “‘Is This What We Came to Florida For?’: Florida Women and the Fight against Air Pollution in the 1960s,” Florida Historical Quarterly 77, no. 4 (Spring 1999): 522–526. Belcher and her neighbors of course represent only one striking example of a wider pattern likely occurring in many localities during the 1960s. Notably, Jacksonville, like other southern cities, remained segregated when Belcher organized her delegation.

  • 56. See generally Ward, “Detroit Wild.”

  • 57. Dewey, “Working for the Environment,” 51–52; Montrie, Making a Living, 107–108; and Chad Montrie, A People’s History of Environmentalism in the United States (New York: Continuum, 2011), 97–98. Notably, Reuther was an avid sport fisherman.

  • 58. That the new division was named the “Department of Conservation,” not of environment, suggests that in the mid-1960s, “conservation” still vied with “environment/alism” as the primary label for postwar environmental reforms.

  • 59. Dewey, “Working for the Environment,” 52–53, 56–58; and Montrie, Making a Living, 107–108.

  • 60. Dewey, “Working for the Environment,” 53; and see also, generally, Les Leopold, The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2007).

  • 61. Robert Gordon, “‘Shell No!’: OCAW and the Labor-Environmental Alliance,” Environmental History 3, no. 4 (October 1998): 460–487.

  • 62. Robert Gordon, “Poisons in the Fields: The United Farm Workers, Pesticides, and Environmental Politics,” Pacific Historical Review 68, no. 1 (February 1999): 51–77; Laura Pulido and Devon Peña, “Environmentalism and Positionality: The Early Pesticide Campaign of the United Farm Workers’ Organizing Committee, 1965–71,” Race, Gender and Class 6, no. 1 (1998): 33–50; Pulido, Environmentalism and Economic Justice, 57–124; and Montrie, Making a Living, 113–128. See also, generally, Adam Tompkins, Ghostworkers and Greens: The Cooperative Campaigns of Farmworkers and Environmentalists for Pesticide Reform (Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 2016). Chad Montrie notes that the labor contracts the UFW won provided more protection from pesticides to workers, and indirectly to consumers, than any existing federal or state law required.

  • 63. Chad Montrie, “Expedient Environmentalism: Opposition to Coal Surface Mining in Appalachia and the United Mine Workers of America, 1945–1975,” Environmental History 5, no. 1 (January 2000): 75–98; and Montrie, A People’s History, 129–137. See also, generally, Chad Montrie, To Save the Land and People: A History of Opposition to Surface Coal Mining in Appalachia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003); and Jinny A. Turman, “Green Civic Republicanism and Environmental Action against Surface Mining in Lincoln County, West Virginia, 1974–1990,” Journal of Southern History 82, no. 4 (2016): 855–900. As noted, dissident UMW members also fought an uphill struggle against the coal industry and corrupt union leaders to gain federal legislation and regulation of black lung disease during the 1960s and 1970s; the Coal Miners Health and Safety Act of 1969 became the model for the broader federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA).

  • 64. Dewey, “Working for the Environment,” 54–56. See also Alan Derickson, “Surviving a ‘Carcinogen Rich Environment’: Steelworkers’ Democratic Intrusion into the Regulation of Coke-Oven Emissions,” Journal of Policy History 27, no. 4 (October 2015): 561–591; and Hurley, Environmental Inequalities, 90–110.

  • 65. John C. Esposito and Larry J. Silverman, Vanishing Air: The Ralph Nader Study Group Report on Air Pollution (New York: Grossman, 1970), 219–222.

  • 66. Scott H. Dewey, “Part Cause, Part Cure: The Changing Relationship between Aviation and Air Pollution in the United States, 1927–1973,” in 1998 National Aerospace Conference: The Meaning of Flight in the 20th Century, Conference Proceedings, October 1–3, 1998, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio (Dayton: Wright State University, 1999), 345.

  • 67. Hurley, Environmental Inequalities, 126–135.

  • 68. William D. Bryan, “Poverty, Industry, and Environmental Quality: Weighing Paths to Economic Development at the Dawn of the Environmental Era,” Environmental History 16, no. 3 (July 2011): 506.

  • 69. Matthew Gandy, “Between Borinquen and the Barrio: Environmental Justice and New York City’s Puerto Rican Community, 1969–1972,” Antipode 34, no. 4 (2002): 730–761.

  • 70. Rector, “Environmental Justice at Work,” 490–491.

  • 71. Richard Kazis and Richard L. Grossman, Fear at Work: Job Blackmail, Labor and the Environment (New York: Pilgrim Press, 1991), ix–xxvii, 3–16; Robert R. Gioielli, Environmental Activism and the Urban Crisis: Baltimore, St. Louis, Chicago (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2014), 167–171; Allen Dieterich-Ward, “‘We’ve Got Jobs. Let’s Fight for Them’: Coal, Clean Air, and the Politics of Antienvironmentalism,” Ohio Valley History 17, no. 1 (2017): 6–28; Joshua Ashenmiller, “The Alaska Pipeline as an Internal Improvement, 1969–1973,” Pacific Historical Review 75, no. 3 (2006): 461–490; Dewey, “Working for the Environment,” 45, 58–59; and Dewey, Don’t Breathe the Air, 251–253. Regarding the resurgence of conservatism in the 1970s generally, see Thomas Byrne Edsall and Mary D. Edsall, Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991), 74–115. As an ironic example of workers’ turn away from environmentalism, the Anaconda, Montana mine and smelter workers who stood up to corporate management on pollution during the 1950s and 1960s by the 1980s were demanding that environmental standards be reduced and the local smelter be forced to remain in operation, as the smelter operations closed down and relocated for primarily non-environmental reasons. See Mercier, Anaconda, 198–202.

  • 72. Gioielli, Environmental Activism, 139–142. The 1970 statement regarding Nader by Douglas Moore of the Washington Black United Front appears in Marcy Darnovsky, “Stories Less Told: Histories of US Environmentalism,” Socialist Review 22, no. 4 (October–December 1992): 38 (“[Ralph Nader is] the biggest damn racist in the United States . . . more responsible than any man for perverting the war on poverty to the war on pollution”).

  • 73. Robert Gottlieb, Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement (Washington, DC and Covelo, CA: Island Press, 1993), 134–136. One need only look through old editions of Environmental Action from the 1970s and early 1980s to find ample evidence of the group’s commitment to occupational safety and health and to working-class and inner-city communities, as well as working-class activism on related issues.

  • 74. Gioielli, Environmental Activism, 141–143.

  • 75. Michael F. Hearn, “One Person’s Waste Is Another Person’s Liability: Closing the Liability Loophole in RCRA’s Citizen Enforcement Action,” McGeorge Law Review 42, no. 2 (2011): 467–471; John Copeland Nagle, “CERCLA’s Mistakes,” William and Mary Law Review 38, no. 4 (May 1997): 1405–1410; and Gary A. Gabison, “The Problems with the Private Enforcement of CERCLA: An Empirical Analysis,” George Washington Journal of Energy and Environmental Law 7, no. 3 (Fall 2016): 189–204.

  • 76. Elizabeth D. Blum, Love Canal Revisited: Race, Class, and Gender in Environmental Activism (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2011); and Jennifer Thomson, “Toxic Residents: Health and Citizenship at Love Canal,” Journal of Social History 50, no. 1 (September 2016): 204–223.

  • 77. Eileen McGurty, Transforming Environmentalism: Warren County, PCBs, and the Origins of Environmental Justice (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2009).

  • 78. The literature on environmental justice is voluminous, but see, for example, Robert D. Bullard, ed., The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics of Pollution (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 2005); Daniel J. Faber, ed., The Struggle for Ecological Democracy: Environmental Justice Movements in the United States (New York: Guilford, 1998); Pulido, Environmentalism and Economic Justice; Ellen Griffith Spears, Baptized in PCBs: Race, Pollution, and Justice in an All-American Town (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014); Barbara Allen, Uneasy Alchemy: Citizens and Experts in Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor Disputes (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003); Steve Lerner, Diamond: A Struggle for Environmental Justice in Louisiana’s Chemical Corridor (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005); and Martin V. Melosi, “Equity, Eco-Racism and Environmental History,” Environmental History Review 19, no. 3 (1995): 1–16. Love Canal and Warren County were only two salient examples of a nationwide phenomenon of working-class communities confronting pollution and toxic threats. Also notable is Hazel Johnson, remembered for her research and activism regarding community health impacts from elevated pollution levels in her African American neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago from the 1970s onward. See David Naguib Pellow, Garbage Wars: The Struggle for Environmental Justice in Chicago (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004), 67–76; and see also Nancy C. Unger, Beyond Nature’s Housekeepers: American Women in Environmental History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 187–213. Another dramatic, tragic example of working-class environmentalism involving workplace health and people of color concerns the Navajo uranium miners and mill workers, who suffered greatly elevated rates of lung cancer from working with dangerous radioactive substances without proper ventilation during the decades after World War II. See Traci Brynne Voyles, Wastelanding: Legacies of Uranium Mining in Navajo Country (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015).

  • 79. See, for example, Dewey, Don’t Breathe the Air, 156. In various cities, air pollution activists would mount a reform campaign, then run out of steam and go moribund, then be followed around a decade later by a new such organization unaware of its predecessors. This cycle of forgetting appears in other contexts as well.

  • 80. See generally, for example, Brian K. Obach, Labor and the Environmental Movement (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004).

  • 81. Timothy J. Minchin, Forging a Common Bond: Labor and Environmental Activism during the BASF Lockout (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003).

  • 82. Brian Mayer, Blue-Green Coalitions: Fighting for Safe Workplaces and Healthy Communities (Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 2009); Kenneth A. Gould, Tammy L. Lewis, and J. Timmons Roberts, “Blue-Green Coalitions: Constraints and Possibilities in the Post 9–11 Political Environment,” Journal of World-Systems Research 10, no. 1 (2004): 90–116; and Jackie Smith, “Globalizing Resistance: The Battle of Seattle and the Future of Social Movements,” Mobilization 6, no. 1 (March 2001): 1–19.

  • 83. Jeffrey Shantz, “Judi Bari and ‘the Feminization of Earth First!’: The Convergence of Class, Gender and Radical Environmentalism,” Feminist Review 70, no. 1 (2002): 105–122; and Alessandro Bonanno and Bill Blome, “The Environmental Movement and Labor in Global Capitalism: Lessons from the Case of the Headwaters Forest,” Agriculture and Human Values 18, no. 4 (2001): 365–381.

  • 84. See, for example, Erik D. Kojola, Chenyang Xiao, and Aaron M. McCright, “Environmental Concern of Labor Union Members in the United States,” Sociological Quarterly 55, no. 1 (2014): 72–91.

  • 85. Ryan Felton, “Flint Water Crisis Was ‘Environmental Injustice’, Governor’s Taskforce Finds,” Guardian, March 23, 2016; Laura Pulido, “Flint, Environmental Racism, and Racial Capitalism,” Capitalism Nature Socialism (2016): 1–16; and Kyle Powys Whyte, “The Dakota Access Pipeline, Environmental Injustice, and U.S. Colonialism,” Red Ink 19, no. 1 (Spring 2017): 154–169.

  • 86. Gioielli, Environmental Activism, 6, 171–172.

  • 87. See Gottlieb, Forcing the Spring, 117–124.

  • 88. Kazis and Grossman, Fear at Work; Gottlieb, Forcing the Spring; Hurley, Environmental Inequalities; Dewey, “Working for the Environment”; Gordon, “Shell No!”; Montrie, “Expedient Environmentalism”; and Hal Rothman, “Conceptualizing the Real: Environmental History and American Studies,” American Quarterly 54, no. 3 (September 2002): 495.

  • 89. See, for example, Loomis, Empire of Timber; Rector, “Environmental Justice at Work” (2014); Southern, “Changing Nature”; Derickson, “Surviving a ‘Carcinogen Rich Environment’”; Minchin, Forging a Common Bond; Fisher, Urban Green; Maher, Nature’s New Deal; Fine, “Workers and the Land in US History”; Gioielli, Environmental Activism; Blum, Love Canal Revisited; McGurty, Transforming Environmentalism; Lipin, Workers and the Wild; and Montrie, To Save the Land and People.

  • 90. Environmental historians have, of course, intellectually problematized terms and concepts such as “wilderness” and “frontier.” The leading example likely remains William Cronon, “The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature,” in Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature, ed. William Cronon (New York: W. W. Norton, 1995), 69–90.

  • 91. Two of Chad Montrie’s books represent a move in this direction. See Montrie, Making a Living; and Montrie, A People’s History.

  • 92. See, for example, Dieter Schott, “Urban Environmental History: What Lessons Are There to Be Learnt?,” Boreal Environmental Research 9 (December 2004): 520; Martin V. Melosi, “The Place of the City in Environmental History,” Environmental History Review 17, no. 1 (Spring 1993): 1–23; and Maureen A. Flanagan, “Environmental Justice in the City: A Theme for Urban Environmental History,” Environmental History 5, no. 2 (April 2000): 159–164.

  • 93. For a clear, helpful overview of environmental historians’ engagement with work and labor history, see Thomas G. Andrews, “Work, Nature, and History: A Single Question, that Once Moved Like Light,” in Oxford Handbook of Environmental History, ed. Andrew C. Isenberg (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 425–456.

  • 94. For just one early example of the characterization of environmentalism as a bastion of middle-class privilege, sponsored by the conservative, anti-environmental Heritage Foundation, see William Tucker, “Environmentalism: The Newest Toryism,” Policy Review 14 (Fall 1980): 141–152.

  • 95. Warren, The Hunter’s Game; Jacoby, Crimes against Nature; McKenzie, Clearing the Coastline; Judd, Common Lands, Common People; and Judd, “Grass-Roots Conservation in Eastern Coastal Maine.”

  • 96. Payne, “Local Economic Stewards,” responding specifically to Karl Jacoby’s introduction of the term or concept “moral ecology” in Jacoby, Crimes against Nature, 3.

  • 97. Robert Gioielli reflects on the problems of (de-)historicization of terms such as “environmentalism” and “environmental justice.” Gioielli, Environmental Activism, 6–7.

  • 98. Scholars discussing urban and working-class environmental history sometimes point to such figures as (direct) evidence of working-class environmentalism. Colin Fisher notes the distinction. See Fisher, Urban Green, 129.

  • 99. Robert Gioielli includes environmental justice within the broad outlines of postwar environmentalism but also distinguishes it from earlier urban environmentalism. Gioielli, Environmental Activism, 173.

  • 100. See, for example, Robert D. Bullard, Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1990); and United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States: A National Report on the Racial and Socio-Economic Characteristics of Communities with Hazardous Waste Sites (New York: United Church of Christ, 1987).

  • 101. Andrew Hurley, “Fiasco at Wagner Electric: Environmental Justice and Urban Geography in St. Louis,” Environmental History 2, no. 4 (October 1997): 460–481; and Rothman, “Conceptualizing the Real,” 495–496.

  • 102. See, for example, Gioielli, Environmental Activism, 172; Laura Pulido, “Rethinking Environmental Racism: White Privilege and Urban Development in Southern California,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 90, no. 1 (March 2000): 12–40; and Pulido, Environmentalism and Economic Justice, 16–48. Activists may have a strong incentive to frame environmental justice in terms of race rather than class, because not only is race a more dramatic, attention-getting issue in American society than class, but racial discrimination is also legally actionable under US federal and state civil rights laws in a way that class discrimination generally is not.

  • 103. See, within the Wayne State University Library System, the Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs (accessed January 31, 2019).

  • 104. Penn State University Libraries, Special Collections: Featured Labor Collections (accessed January 31, 2019); Cornell University, Catherwood Library, Kheel Center (accessed January 31, 2019); University of Maryland University Libraries, George Meany Memorial AFL-CIO Archive (accessed January 31, 2019); and New York University Libraries, The Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives (accessed January 31, 2019).

  • 105. West Virginia University, West Virginia and Regional History Center (accessed January 31, 2019).

  • 106. Two examples (among probably many others) include the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Special Collections and Archives (accessed January 31, 2019); and San Francisco State University, J. Paul Leonard Library, Labor Archives and Research Center (accessed January 31, 2019).

  • 107. See, for example, Wisconsin Historical Society, About Our Labor Collection (accessed January 31, 2019).

  • 108. For some possibilities to try, see Oral History Association, Centers and Collections (accessed January 31, 2019).

  • 109. National Archives and Records Administration (accessed January 31, 2019); Bates College, Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library (accessed January 31, 2019); Marshall University Libraries, Special Collections (accessed January 31, 2019) and Papers of Ken Hechler (accessed January 31, 2019).

  • 110. Society of American Archivists, Labor Archives Section Directory: Labor Archives in the United States and Canada (accessed January 31, 2019).