Abstract

Modern environmental activists unified behind calls for a change in how humans understood their relationships with nature. Yet they approached their concerns through a variety of historical lenses. Countering arguments that suggest environmentalism had its deepest roots in outdoor leisure, the countercultural back-to-the-land movement turned to a markedly American practice of pastoral mythmaking that held rural life and labor as counter to the urban-industrial condition. Counterculturalists relied specifically on notions of simple work in rural collective endeavors as the means to producing a healthy body and environment. Yet the individuals who went back-to-the-land often failed to remedy conflicts that arose as they attempted to abandon American consumer practices and take up a "primitive" and down-to-earth pastoral existence. Contact with rural nature time and again translated to physical maladies, impoverishment, and community clashes in many rural countercultural communes. As the back-to-the-land encounter faded, the greater movement’s ethos did not disappear. Counterculturalists used the consumption of nature through rural labor as a fundamental idea in a growing cooperative food movement. The back-to-the-land belief in the connection between healthy bodies, environments, a collective identity helped to expand a new form of consumer environmentalism.

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