Article ID: CBB243007913

Rural Revolt: Power Line Protests and the Alternative Technology Movement in the United States, 1970s (January 2021)


In the 1970s, powerline protests erupted across rural communities in the United States. Just as a global movement of environmentalists, farmers, and activists fought expansive energy infrastructures, many rural Americans living in the transportation corridors of the electric-grid system directly confronted the political, social, and environmental costs of cheap electricity. This article revisits three well-known powerline protests in the United States—in western Minnesota, Appalachian Ohio, and upstate New York. It argues that rural protestors, by resisting capital-intensive technological growth in the countryside, proved highly receptive to the era's alternative technology movement. The protests show how the alternative technology movement and its democratic vision spread and transmuted within mainstream American culture. Rural communities, leery of large-scale corporate and government control, helped advance renewable energy politics and challenged the "utility consensus" of the American electric power industry. Grassroots revolts blended populist politics with global critiques to make environmental ethics agreeable to rural constituencies.

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Authors & Contributors
Rhees, David J.
Winskel, Mark
Lauber, Volkmar
Mez, Lutz
McQuaid, Kim
Williams, James C.
The Bridge: Journal of the National Academy of Engineering
Physics in Perspective
Social Studies of Science
Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society
American Studies
Technology and Culture
Harvard University Press
University Press of Kansas
Johns Hopkins University Press
Cornell University Press
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
Electric power industry
Energy resources and technologies
Electric utilities
Public policy
Protest movements
Science and politics
Arturo Malignani
Alessandro Cruto
Time Periods
20th century, late
21st century
20th century, early
19th century
United States
Minnesota (U.S.)
California (U.S.)
British Isles
Ohio (U.S.)
Bakken Library and Museum (Minneapolis)
Science Museum of Minnesota
Pavek Museum of Broadcasting (St. Louis Park, Minn.)
United States. National Aeronautics and Space Administration
New Deal (1933-1939)
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; Partial Test Ban Treaty; Limited Test Ban Treaty (1963)

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