Conservationist John Mir once said, “The world, we are told, was made spec ally for man a presumption not supported by all the facts. ” The Gilded Age was a per do of great progress for industrial and economical growth in American history. Many fro m the time period, as well as the present, viewed this progress as positive. In reality, the innovation ones of the era have become our downfall. To better our civilization, we eradicated species like e the wolf, passenger pigeon, and the great herds of bison that once roamed the prairie.
The land was raped and pillaged of natural resources, and industry polluted the skies, river s and lakes. Some, like John Mull, saw these effects and fought to protect the yet untouched De wilderness, becoming known as the first conservationists. But, in the name Of mankind, the e Gilded Age tore at the environment and ecosystem of America and labeled it as progress. This “progress” cut its way through the continent and left its scars, and in many ways continuo sees still today. The Gilded Age was a time of movement.
As settlers moved west, and the pop ululation n the east grew, Americans began shaping the environment to fit their needs. In the North, passenger pigeons were a common sight. The population was so immense the at flocks would darken the skies for hours at a time. When settlers came to Michigan, common n sport became shooting the dense flocks out of the sky. By the sass’s, 250,000 pigeons a yea r were shot for sport (Pointing). Once the expanding railroad linked the North with the East, SST attest such as Michigan began supplying the booming cities with resources in great demand .
One of which was cheap meat to feed the growing population. Large scale commercial hunt inning of the pigeon began, and by 1869, 7,500,000 birds were shipped from Van Burden Co unity, Michigan (Panting). This unsustainable slaughter continued; the shipment count steadily y dropping each year until 1914 when the last passenger pigeon died in captivity (Pointing). The Gilded Age not only saw the last of the passenger pigeon, but was also the era of the slaughter re of the wolf. Settlers clashed with the apex predator over livestock, so the government beg an a campaign to exterminate the wolf throughout the entire country (Wolf).
Aledo Leopold, a renowned ecologist and author, experienced the Gilded Age firsthand. In his highly acclaim med book, A Sand County Almanac , he writes of his time working for the US Forest Service during the campaign against the wolf. He describes his experience taking out a wolf pack “In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf. In a s second we were pumping lead into the pack, but with more excitement than accuracy… We re ached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes…
I was young then, and full of triggerfish; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no www Ivies would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, sensed that .NET her the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view. ” Basic ecology explains the environmental impact of wiping out a top predator in an ecosystem. Without keeping herds in check, deer and other herbivores and o omnivores will scour a landscape, not allowing vegetation to grow back. This can lead to des ratification and erosion. As a result, the population of herbivores and omnivores will plume t.
This concept is just the same with agriculture. Leopold continues to explain that, “The comma n who cleans is range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolfs job of trim miming the herd to fit the range… Hence we have dustless, and rivers washing the future into o the sea” (Leopold). The progress of the Gilded Age brought much change to the country y, but in doing so left its mark, scarring the environment. The last half of the 1 9th century not only saw expansion of settlement, but ex pa onions of industry as well. But the success of mankind had an ugly side effect.
Coal a ND oil became a necessity to fuel the booming economy, and it was newly found and readily available. The cackles burning of these fuels lead to massive pollution and exploitation. Star mining began in the Southeast and many streams and rivers were diverted as a result (Dell Reno). We now know today that the movement Of burning coal from the 1 9th century has led to the biggest environmental issue of our time: global warming. Not only did coal cause long term environmental concerns, the smelting of iron ore (another widely demanded r source of the Gilded Age) crippled rivers with its pollution.
Refineries and steel mills set all inside rivers discharged waste and oil into the flow for decades (Dolores). The polluted water became so toxic that some rivers even caught fire. In Ohio, the Quahogs River runs FRR mom the Great Lakes through Cleveland, passing many refineries and mills. In 1 868, the eve repopulated river ignited. Unfortunately, this catastrophe would be the first of many, occurring even up into the sass’s (Quahogs). The progressing of industry in the Gilded Age brought com applications to the environment that took decades, or even centuries to correct. Some, such as global warming, may even be irreversible.
The progress of the 1 9th century could be described as Nan’s downfall, and today we are still walking in the eras footsteps. Unlike the Gilded Age, today we have many laws and organizations protecting the environment. But in the modern age, we face issues much like those of the 19 the century. The Keystone Pipeline could be the most heated topic of this decade in American politics. The proposed pipeline would ship fossil fuel from the lyrics tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to the heart of Texas, bringing many jobs to an America with an unemployment rate in need of much help.
But after the initial rear construction of the Pipeline, there is only a nee of 50 permanent job holdings. As the theme follows, blind progress leads to an DOD inward spiral. Extracting the crude oil from the tar sands requires striping forests, burin Eng large amounts of fossil fuel, creating holding ponds for the toxic waste product, an d to produce 1 barrel of crude oil, 4 barrels of water must contaminated (Breeder). The extra action and refining processes would release an incredible amount of carbon dioxide; about 200 parts per million.
Scientists calculate that the safe level for CA in the atmosphere is 350 pump, and already we have well exceeded that level. The new year of 201 5 brought in the measure meet of 400 pump, hitting a new milestone. The release of CA from the tar sands would RA sis the current level of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere by over half. The effects would “cry eat more climate change than in the entire history of humanity” (Breached). James Hans on, an acclaimed climate scientist states that, “If the tar sands are thrown into the mi x, it is essentially game over. There is no practical way to capture the CA while bur inning oil. We] cannot get back to a safe CA level if unconventional fossil fuels, like tar sand s are exploited”. Not only would the pipeline allow for climate change to skyrocket, but it threatens to destroy native lands in Alberta and ecosystems from Montana down to Tex as where spills would leak dangerous toxins into the environment. Progress is possible, but we cannot be blind to threats for our future. Like the Gilded Age, progress threatens to scrip peel the environment once again, even with the knowledge the modern day provides. John Mir, the father of conservation, witnessed firsthand the environmental impact of the late 19th century.
Like the name reveals, the Gilded Age was a time that appeared great and golden on the surface, but what lay beneath the thin cover was an e RA of struggle, exploitation and degradation. Mir saw the effects of booming progress and s dated, “Not blind opposition to progress, but opposition to blind progress”. Man was and iconic nuns to bend the environment to meet his standards, when progress should be learning to coke exist status inability. Decisions should not be made on the idea of money earned and spent, but of r the wellbeing of the future. In the modern age, we have seen the impacts man can have on the land.
Although the Gilded Age marked a turning point for the growth of America, an d the innovations made life comfortable for many, did it outweigh the consequence s to the environment? Today we see laws and guidelines put into place to reduce the human impact, but too often we see scenarios, such as the Keystone Pipeline, that reflects the e “blind” progress of the 1 9th century.