Abstract: Business Leadership and Environmental Reform: Connecting the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries

Christine Rosen


My paper is a speculative think piece rather than a conventional historical research paper. My goal is to draw a connection between the role that business leaders played as advocates of air pollution regulation in late nineteenth- and very early twentieth-century America and recent initiatives by some American corporate leaders, venture capitalists, and business entrepreneurs to take leadership roles in the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to protect against climate change and other environmental problems. I want explore the possibility of using history to break through one of the stereotypes that has congealed around the battles that have raged over pollution regulation in the United States over the last forty-five years—namely, the idea that businessmen are by definition the enemy of environmental protection. My cases will suggest that the story is much more complicated.