from Saltmarsh's biography:
Nearing was raised in a prominent family that controlled the coal town of Morris Run, PA. In his youth he was educated in Philadelphia and was graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in 1905. He went on to teach there as an economist and engaged himself in the political and social causes of progressivism, preaching the social gospel and denouncing child labor. He gained national attention when he was fired from the Wharton Scool in 1915 for his religious and economic views in what became a major academic-freedom case. Two years later, he was dismissed from the University of Toledo for his antiwar activities. While he had been sympathetic to the socialist movement prior to 1917, after he severed his ties with academia he joined the Socialist party and ran for a congressional seat from New York as a Socialist candidate. His antiwar stance also led to an indictment under the Espionage and Sedition Acts and his eventual acquittal.
When the Left split in 1919, Nearing's sympathies went with the Communists, but he remained with the Socialist party until 1922. He was a prominent figure in the Left throughout the 1920s, visited China and Russia, and joined the Communist Party in 1927. He was expelled from the Party in 1930 over issues of doctrine and intellectual independence. In the early 1930s, Nearing cut his ties with the organized Left and began what became a fifty-year experiment in subsistence living, homesteading in Vermont and then Maine, adhering to a philosophy of simple living and self-sufficiency. In the 1970s, he gained the attention of the countercultural Left, which sought a retreat back to the land as a solution to political and cultural alienation, and he was considered one who implicitly contributed to an environmentalism stressing one's ethical duty toward nature and animal welfare as an affirmation of values that would serve the common good. (pg 2)
Scott and Helen Nearing certainly wouldn't have seen themselves as 'utopian', or as 'Romantic' either. Their inclusion in the context of American technology is somewhat quixotic, since they seem more like throwbacks to pre-industrial times:
...our refusal to convert our hand mixer into a power tool had several noteworthy results.
- We saved time, labor, capital outlay, upkeep and replacement costs incident to the operation of all power tools.
- We saved the outlay for gasoline or electricity.
- We avoided the anxiety, tension, frustration and loss of time caused by mechanical breakdowns...
- Turning the mixer with first one hand and then the other, we got balanced muscle-building, invigorating, rejuvenating physical exercise in the fresh air, under the open sky...(pg. 38)
Mankind has worked for ages with hand implements. Machine tools are a novelty, recently introduced into the realm of human experience... there can be no question but that [machines] have watered down or annihilated many of the most ancient, most fascinating and creative human skills, broken up established institutions, pushed masses of 'hands' into factories and herded droves of anonymous footloose wanderers from urban slum to urban slum. Only the historian of the future will be able to assess the net effect of the machine age on human character and on man's joy in being and his will to live. (Living the Good Life 1954:39)