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I would start by looking at the history of the environmental movement. There might not be any one correct answer to that question, but you could offer 1892 as a starting point, since that’s when the Sierra Club was founded. The Sierra Club began lobbying Congress to preserve natural areas of the country.
I would emphasize major legislation that been passed to help fight environmental problems. One of the earliest important laws was the Refuse Act of 1899.
I would suggest mentioning some of the major literary works that have had an impact on the environmental movement, such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.
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