(TIME) — “The myth of uninhabited virgin wilderness has for more than a century obscured a history of Native land dispossession”.
The national park system has long been lauded as “America’s greatest idea,” but only recently has it begun to be more deeply questioned.
Historians of the environmental movement often locate the conservation movement’s genesis in mid-19th-century literature, most commonly invoking writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and John Muir. After Emerson composed a book titled Nature in 1836, a new, mystical religious and philosophical movement called transcendentalism began to emerge in Boston, Emerson its founder, with the help of Thoreau and others. Believing that a direct experience with the divine could be attained through intimate interaction with nature, both became known as naturalists in what was a new, highly romanticized, and particularly American version of naturalism.