Taylor & Francis Group

The American Dream: Technology, tourism, and the transformation of wilderness

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For numerous citizens in the early-mid-1900s, the American Dream was synonymous with the consumerism and cultural progress made possible by the significant technological advances instigated by World War II. Merging with post-war increases in economic prosperity and leisure time, these developments also facilitated the excursions of masses of middle-upper-class citizens into nature. In this context, The Wilderness Society (TWS) faced numerous challenges as the ardent consumerism encouraged by the American Dream resulted in expanding threats to wilderness, yet simultaneously created the means for growing public support of its preservation through legislation. The Wilderness Act of 1964, which relied on transformed social conceptions of wilderness for its successful subsequent passage, was achieved through the ways TWS navigated key cultural tensions. Primary among these was the primitivity-civilization dualism, which manifested in shifting human-nature expectations and relations within the cultural formations of World War II, emergent technologies, increasing consumption, and ever-escalating tourism.

* A previous version of this essay, derived from a chapter of the author's dissertation, Gender, Race, and Nature: A Cultural History of The Wilderness Society and the Wilderness Act of 1964, was presented at the 2007 Conference on Communication and Environment.

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