This article examines, first, how environmental concerns have shaped British politics since 1945, making the environment an object of governance; and second, how political developments have an environmental history, focussing on the environmental demands of social democracy. It contends that environmentalism should be considered alongside other political ideologies, such as socialism and feminism, as helping to constitute the modern British state and the evolving relationship between government and the citizen. It considers how the management of the terrestrial environment became a hotly contested matter in the postwar decades, drawing a distinction between the politics of ‘landscape preservation’ and ‘nature conservation’. This discussion is related to access politics and questions of rural governance and regulation, particularly with respect to the agricultural sector. The article concludes with a discussion of some current environmental concerns, reflecting on the possible transition from today's ‘carbon democracy’ to tomorrow's ‘renewable democracy’.