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

The scientific, intensive agriculture that the Rockefeller Foundation pioneered on a large international scale (eventually in partnership with the Ford Foundation) was touted as a “Green Revolution” in a 1968 speech. The name stuck. How the Mexican Agriculture Program created a method for intensifying agriculture on a global level…


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

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. created the Snake River Land Company in 1927 to purchase 35,000 acres of land in Jackson Hole, a valley adjacent to Wyoming’s Grand Teton mountain range. He planned to donate the land to the National Park Service. Local ranchers supported the idea, eager to protect the area from commercialization and retain its “Old West” character. But when word got out that Rockefeller was behind the purchases, a fierce backlash ensued…

Race & Social Justice

Photo Essay: Supporting Minority Enterprise in the late 1960s

In 1968, the Ford Foundation began to fund minority enterprise and other social investments using a new tool, the Program-Related Investment (PRI). This photo essay shows the breadth of these investments and diversity of activities that PRIs funded in both inner city and rural environments…