Floris Solleveld | History of Humanities
This article tries to shed light on the ideology of early 20th-century utilitarian conservationists in the United States. It focuses on Gifford Pinchot, who was the first chief of the US Forest Service. After a comparison between Saint-Simonianism and utilitarian conservation, the article looks at Pinchot’s approach to the National Parks, by drawing on Jacques Ellul’s reflections on the ideological underpinnings of the technological society. The article ends with a discussion of the impact of Pinchot’s approach to conservation on the chances of success of his preservationist adversaries during the Hetch Hetchy controversy in the early 20th century. It suggests that the preservationist case, predicated on spiritual and aesthetic concerns, was doomed to be dismissed as impractical and sentimental in an era when the search for efficiency defined the public policy agenda to a considerable degree.