It all started with a bunch of proto-human hominids living those rift valleys on the east coast of Africa. The rift valleys provided a fairly substantial slab of environment but, as the number of proto-hominids increased, they noted that for some reason, there was getting to be less and less environment to go around as time went on.
Eventually things declined to the point where there was a lot of proto-bickering about who should get to use which bits of the limited supply of the environment, and how often, and so on and so forth. The end result of this proto-political process was most likely that the upstarts who were demanding more of the environment(the proto-progressives) were kicked out of the rift valleys by those who already held the territory (the proto-conservatives). This was a proto-win-win-solution; the proto-conservatives were rid of the unwanted disruptive element, while the proto-progressives discovered that there was a lot more environment outside the rift valleys. This event was the beginning of the prehistoric era of environmental movements.
During this prehistoric era, the initial experience of kicking those disruptive proto-progressives out the clan or tribal territory to go off and find a new bit of environment where they could fulfil their proto-utopian fantasies (or perhaps their utopian proto-fantasies - in the absence of more information on prehistoric human psychology, it could be either) was repeated over tens of thousands of years as humanities ancestors spread first through Africa, then into Europe.
The pre-historic era of environmental movements ended roughly 40,000 years ago when a group of human settled a large, rather arid island continent that would later be dubbed Terra Nullius. From that point onwards, the option of taking off to find a new hitherto unused slab of environment when you found yourself with not enough environment to go round was no longer available.