For years, political divisions over the environment have had the seemingly odd feature that Americans farthest from the open country have tended to be most supportive of protecting the environment, while those nearest to it—farmers and other rural residents—have been most resistant. This split has been muddled in recent years as nature lovers have retired to the countryside, country folk have realized the business advantages of environmental tourism, and political polarization has increasingly subsumed specific issues. Still, when contentious topics such as the Keystone Pipeline or expanding national parks come up, the nature purists tend to be upscale urbanites. The General Social Survey asked how willing respondents would be to “accept cuts in your standard of living in order to protect the environment”; highly educated, white liberals in metropolitan areas were the most willing.
The urban left’s eco-puritanism takes many forms. Well-educated, secular Americans in particular pay extra for organic products, explore “natural” alternatives to Western medicine, and join environmentalist campaigns as donors and participants.
Whatever the virtues of each practice, running through all of them is the exaltation of nature. This cult of the natural has deep roots in America. — Read more on the Boston Review website.