George Perkins Marsh

George Perkins Marsh was the first environmental conservationist. Born in 1801 He lived an extremely versatile life. He worked as a sheep farmer, mill owner, business owner, newspaper editor, lecturer, railroad investor, wool manufacturer, spoke 20 different languages, wrote an important book on the origins of the English language, he helped design the Washington monument. And in the last 20 years of his life, he took on the role of U.S. minister in Italy. But today he is best remembered for his observations as a young Vermont living nature lover which he wrote in his articles titled “Man and Nature”. He was the first person to suggest that Man was an “Agent of Change” that has we physically changed landscapes to our desire. Geography of the time was based on the idea that rivers, mountains, forests, and other masses were created by the earth and we simply occupy them. Marsh argued that man shaped the world, we create rivers, build roads, plant greenery, and mine out paths. He was the first to explain the dependence between society and the environment.

Marshes brother James was the President of the University of Vermont and redefined Transcendentalism which heavily influenced George’s intellectual studies. He considered himself a Transcendentalist, however, unlike others such as Emerson or Thoreau, he wanted to “Tame nature” He believed infrastructure was important, but in that, it was also important to weigh the ecological cons.