chapter  2
26 Pages

Organizing Environmental Protest: Swill Milk and Social Activism in Nineteenth-Century New York City

More importantly, however, nineteenth-century reformers shared intrinsic interests with modern environmentalists and this, too, deserves our attention, if only because it enriches our reading of the history of environmentalism. In contemporary urban spaces, a variety of planning and health issues have been cast as environmental problems. Sewage treatment, waste disposal, the use and reuse of space, and the planning of green areas have all attracted input-and sometimes ire-from environmental groups. e problem, however, is that this urban activism has frequently been regarded as a post-World War II phenomenon, spurred by suburbanization, urban blight, and economic downturns that le many cities in decay. is essay means to stress the truism that even before a language of natural protest united activists under an environmental umbrella, eorts to protect health and establish sustainable communities were a predominant feature of the American urban landscape. And in so doing, this essay suggests that as historians we might sensibly listen for echoes through the past as a means of identifying potential relationships that might enrich our reading of the past. To do so permits us to draw better lines over and across time that help us to appreciate complexities inherent in historical study.