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Impact of the Advent of Automobile in America Essay

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Updated: Jan 15th, 2022


In Ken Burns’ documentary, the advent of the automobile caused the National Parks to be more accessible to people of all kinds. This has also led many people who have visited the national parks and the wilderness to appreciate nature and its wildlife. This led the people to realize that the wilderness forms the most special places in the nation. This realization has brought the idea for the need for preservation of the wilderness in its natural form in order to ensure that the future generations would have the opportunity to enjoy the scenery and beauty in the wild. The wilderness should not be preserved for royalty and the rich only but for everyone in the nation. This paper will address on some of the influences this, combined with nationalism, have had on America’s vocation habits. The results that are likely to occur due to this fact will also be addressed.

Impact on America’s vacation habits

The advent of automobile has enabled many to visit the national parks of America and this has led people to appreciate the wild and have a reason to want it to be preserved. Cole, who was a lover of nature and a great contributor to American nationalism, advocated for the preservation of the wilderness. When he went to the upper Ohio Valley, where his family resided, the beauty in the wild forests moved him and that is where he decided to place his career choice. He wanted to represent his feelings in pictures and that is when he decided to pursue art (Nash, p. 78).

Nash acknowledged that the appreciation of the wild began in the cities. It is due to the accessibility to the national parks that various people began to view the wilderness in a different light and their attitudes changed. The people who have come to view wild based on romanticism and deism include the writers, scientists, artists and the vacationers. These types of people viewed the wilderness in another perspective other than the pioneer’s perspective.

Impact on the American wilderness

Due to the continued appreciation of the wilderness, people have resorted to performing activities that do not endanger the survival of the wilderness and its constituents such as wildlife. It is for that very reason that the famous national parks were established in America (Stegner, p. 126).

At some point, Thoreau was worried about the possible effects of civilization to the wilderness and the older and better patterns of living. According to Thoreau, man could not live away from the beauty of the wild (Thoreau, p. 391). He described civilization as a life lived in a mechanized way. This, according to him, would take away the great innocence of simplicity and great taste of the wilderness (Nash, p. 86). Whenever he went far from the wilderness, he felt incomplete and out of place and this forced him to journey to places like Canada and Maine where he could find the wilderness. The feeling of being in an unexplored or uninhabited wilderness excited Thoreau (Nash, p. 87).

The meaning of the word wilderness has been debated a lot due to the changes that have occurred in the nature of the wild (Leopold, p. 277). The original meaning of wilderness was an area that was uninhabited or undisturbed but more recently, the evidence of significant use has been tolerated and the area is still called wilderness (Nash, p. 3). Such activities as lumbering and the grazing of livestock have also been tolerated in such areas. This led to the development of the National Wilderness Preservation System that was meant to preserve the wild.

The development of the roads that lead to the wilderness has also had negative effects to the wild and distorted the original meaning of the word wilderness (Cafaro, p. 56). The Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission defined the term wilderness as an area where no roads have been developed. This also meant that the area was unusable by the public. With the advent of the roads and automobile, the wilderness has been under significant threat of depletion (Nash, p. 6).

Other definitions of wilderness have come up due to the difficulty in locating a vast area that is untouched or unexploited. This has led the wilderness to be referred as an area where limited access is allowed and where there is limited influence from man. Such activities as construction must be minimal. The area ought to be a large expanse with as little modification as possible.

Christopher McCandless’ thoughts about the situation

Christopher McCandless is said to have died in the wilderness where he had gone to hike. His death is believed to have been due to starvation after he got lost and could not locate his way back. He got lost probably due to the nature of the wilderness at that time. It was very natural and there were not much development in the area. There were no roads to lead him to safety. He died in a desperate situation due to lack of a means to locate a safety haven.

With the advent of automobile, roads have been constructed in the wilderness and have made access much easy. This has made the exploration of the wilderness much easy unlike Christopher’s time. He had to go through difficult terrain and a lot of trouble before he could make a significant trip. If he were alive today, he would have felt stupid to go out in the wild alone and without prior planning.

If access into the wilderness had been as easy as it is today, he would have had a great time maneuvering into the wilderness. Christopher loved nature and he would have preferred to access it with so much ease.

Similarities between families in the burns documentary and those in America’s great outdoors

The families in the burns documentary have similarities with those in the America’s Great Outdoors in that both love and appreciate nature. The families in the burns documentary included the rich and poor, the famous and the unknown, the entrepreneurs, the soldiers and many others. All these people had a desire to devote themselves to preserve some valuable portion of the land. This was an act of democracy. The people were involved in stirring adventure in the wilderness. The story traces the birth of the idea of a national park and follows through the process. The families in the documentary showed their concern for the wild and helped in the creation of new parks to save nature from destruction.

The families involved in restoring America’s great outdoors also showed their appreciation for the conservation of historical and cultural sites. This interest has grown over time as they get to access the wild and view the beauty that comes with it. Their efforts on conservation have been seen in the development of the urban parks where wild animals can be protected and where permission to view wildlife is granted. This is when people go to enjoy nature. Where civilization has occurred, community green spaces have been set aside to preserve the portions of the cities that still possess the precious commodity – nature.

The families have also been involved in conserving their own working lands since charity begins at home. It would only be fair to start conserving one’s own space first. The families have become great stewards of their public lands and have been involved in the protection of their rivers and watersheds. This venture of conservation started when immediate funding was made to the Water and Land Conservation Funds that would spearhead the process of conservation of the resources.

President Obama was the one who launched the America’s Great Outdoors initiative. He was interested in developing the conservation and recreation agenda. The president wanted to provide lasting solutions towards conservation of the natural heritage of the state. This was meant to arise from the Americans themselves. This was also an act of democracy that was witnessed in the Burns documentary.


The advent of automobile was a great thing since it led to the enlightenment of the people, especially the Americans. This caused the development of the roads and the improvement of the accessibility into the national parks. This caused many to realize the beauty of nature and wilderness and developed the urge to maintain it in its most natural form through conservation. Conservation initiatives have continued to develop, the latest of them being the one launched by the president himself. The America’s Great Outdoors initiative was meant to bring a lasting solution to the conservation issue. This was done by first altering the people’s way of thinking and changing their attitudes and perceptions towards nature.

Works Cited

  1. Cafaro, Philip. Thoreau, Leopold and Carson: Towards and environmental virtue ethics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. Print.
  2. Leopold, Aldo. A sand county almanac and sketches here and there. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. Print.
  3. Nash, Roderick. Wilderness and the American mind. London: Yale University Press, 1980. Print.
  4. Stegner, Wallace. Where the bluebird sings to the lemonade springs: Living and writing in the west. New York: Wings Books, 1995. Print.
  5. Thoreau, Henry. Where I lived and what I lived for. Philadelphia: Running Press Book Publishers, 1990. Print.
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