Yankee Independence: Henry David Thoreau and the Birth of American counterculture

Cindy McGroatry in Newtopia:

Thoreau Modern-day ecologists can look to Thoreau as a naturalist who possessed what many experts believe was a great deal of scientific sophistication. He readily understood Darwin and wrote intelligently on the cycles of nature. At the same time, he had a sense that the unspoiled environment was integral to our development and health as human beings. For that reason, he remains an inspiration to environmentalists.

Just as a conscientious soul can better an institution, Thoreau’s work has the power to improve us, to be our country’s most honest and persistent conscience as we journey into the 21st Century. He asks the difficult but important questions we face as individuals and as a nation, even if he leaves it to us to find most of the answers. E.B. White once compared Thoreau’s style of social commentary to a “modern Western” where the writer “rides into the subject at top speed, shooting in all directions.” Like any good anti-establishment hero, Thoreau has made the fight valorous, and his gunshots are still loud enough to wake us. “How splendid it was,” White concluded, “that somebody should have ridden in there and raised all that ruckus.”

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