Antedating of "tree hugger" (1965)

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Sat Apr 24 16:10:11 UTC 2004

In a message dated Fri, 23 Apr 2004 21:56:29 -0400,  Jesse Sheidlower
<jester at PANIX.COM> writes:

>  > But this AP story out of Chicago was ahead of its time.
>  >
>  > Seeing as how the Chicago papers haven't been digitized, we turn to the
>  >
>  > 10 Sept. 1965 Appleton(Wi) _Post Crescent_  1/4-5(Newspaperarchive)
>  >
>  >  <<The battle was between the tree huggers and the city./The
>  > city won, 100-0./Conservationist Stuart Chase describes the
>  > holding action on the lakefront Thursday:/They started up
>  > their chain saws and, with blades whirring, charged at us
>  > and cut the trees off right on top of us.  They tried to
>  > drop trees on people and waved whirling chain saws at
>  > everybody.  If people had been chained to the trees, they
>  > would have been cut in half.>>
>  Are you sure this date is accurate? The story doesn't seem
>  at all like something from 1965, vocabulary aside.

On the contrary, it does sound like 1965, and earlier.  Environmentalism did
not originate with Earth Day and the Nixon-Ruckelshaus legal synthesis that
Fred Shapiro is so enamored of.  (The fact that the first Earth Day occurred
implies a significant number of environmentalists were already in existence.)

One might cite Rachel Carson's _Silent Spring_ of 1962, but it is much more
revealing to look at J. R. R. Tolkien's _The Lord of the Rings, Vol III: The
Return of the King_ chapter entitled "The Scouring of the Shire" (not in the
movie version).  For earlier examples one might note that in 1903 the New York
Legislature outlawed steam locomotives in Manhattan due to air pollution
concerns.  From the 19th century one can cite many cases of activism against the
Leblanc soda process, then widely used and notorious for the amount of pollution
it produced.  (This issue was eventually solved not by activism but by Solvay's
invention of the much more environment-friendly Solvay process which
completely replaced the Leblanc process.  By the way, the Leblanc process is probably
what Tolkien was thinking of when he wrote "The Scouring of the Shire".)

My parents were involved in an environmental campaign circa 1960 called "Save
Our Parks", whose purpose was to protest the building of an expressway
through Cherokee Park in Louisville, KY.  (Moderately successful, as by way of
compromise the expressway was redesigned to run through a tunnel under a key
section of the park.)    The term "tree hugger" was almost certainly not used,
because for one thing the protesters were asking to save a park, not just the trees
in it.

My Aunt Lea then proceeded to become yet another type of "tree hugger" when
she became a fundraiser for replacing trees in Cherokee Park which were knocked
down by a particularly environmentally-unfriendly tornado.

            - James A. Landau

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