Beginning with a focus on the conservation of natural resources and heritage, American philanthropy has long engaged with environmental issues both in the US and globally. Over the course of the twentieth century, environmentalism has been repeatedly reframed in response to changing contexts and discoveries — from conservation and stewardship to ecology and sustainability, and now to a growing recognition of the human causes and consequences of climate change.

Recently Published


Photo Essay: Mexico and the Launch of the Green Revolution

One foundation’s program in Mexico created the blueprint for ending hunger worldwide.


The Rockefeller Brothers Fund Supports Modern Environmentalism

Environmental education was once a new, almost marginal idea. The rise of its acceptance traces partly to a series of grants from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to the National Audubon Society, totaling nearly one-million dollars. This funding helped Audubon reach out to youth and other new audiences in the 1960s and 1970s. In the process, Audubon itself transformed into a more modern, relevant organization…


John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Creates a National Park

Who defines the public good? The showdown caused when a billionaire bought land and tried to give it to the American people.

Race & Social Justice

Photo Essay: Supporting Minority Enterprise in the late 1960s

In 1968, the Ford Foundation began to make social investments using a new tool borrowed from the for-profit world, the Program-Related Investment.