Although it traces its roots to Jefferson's agrarian vision and Thoreau's later practice in self-reliance, the back-to-the-land movement began in the mid-1960's as a counter to a growing urban/industrial culture. Its main purpose was to resurrect an agrarian way of life and to live within a self imposed set of guidelines that rejected many of the values of consumerism that were rampant in mainstream American culture. By the end of the 1970's the movement evolved into one in line with the growing environmental movement, as people became concerned with sustainable living and holistic living. The urban to rural migration that characterized the movement attempted to shed the materialism of the cities and replace it with self-sufficiency. One estimate says that by the end of the 1970's over 1 million people had moved to rural areas as part of the back-to-the-land movement. The widespread prosperity of the 1980's saw a decline in the number of people interested in leaving consumer culture for a simpler life, but the 1990's have seen a trend back to a more environmentally conscious lifestyle. Figure for a social movement such as this are hard to quantify, making it difficult to get a precise count of the number of people currently living back-to-the-land.

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