Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Bancroft Prize-winning historian Worster ( Dust Bowl ) writes with a deep understanding of nature and its place in human affairs. In these lucid, authoritative essays, he ranges through American history to explore the people, ideas and economic developments that have shaped our attitudes and behaviors toward the land. The ecological crisis, he stresses, is `` the crisis of modern culture,'' brought on by modernity's materialism. Several pieces address the roles of population growth, technology and the market economy in the degradation of the environment. Others exhibit a narrower focus, e.g., how Protestantism helped shape John Muir and other environmental reformers. Worster's examinations of the myths and realities behind our interaction with nature provide a needed perspective. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
This collection of 16 essays concerns the impact on nature of Judeo-Christian belief, Adam Smith's economic theories, and humankind generally and also offers a historical perspective on the growth of environmental history. A common theme is Aldo Leopold's idea of a ``land ethic.'' Worster shares his own awakening of environmental consciousness, and the essays reflect a diversity of sources and information. Environmental historians must be able to digest and understand data from science as well as other academic disciplines. Worster excels at this task; that, and his forthrightness and willingness to express opinions, make this book a winner. Recommended for both general readers and specialists in the field.-- Patricia Owens, Wabash Valley Coll . , Mt. Carmel, Ill . (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Sixteen thoughtful essays that examine the present and future implications of America's past relationship to the land--and that draw, as Worster (American History/University of Kansas; Rivers of Empire, 1986, etc.) puts it, a ``picture of the human past that is radically unlike anything you will find in the standard undergraduate history textbooks.'' In these pieces (some of which appeared originally in academic journals and books), Worster speaks with awe of the ``search to discover a less reductive, less ecologically and spiritually nihilistic, less grasping kind of materialism.'' In this spirit, reminiscent of Thoreau and Joseph Wood Krutch (one of the author's early inspirations), Worster sounds deeply skeptical over the prospect that a market economy can ever be compatible with responsible stewardship of this country's natural resources: His own preference is for an environmentalism ``that talks about ethics and aesthetics rather than about resources and economics.'' Not surprisingly, given these views, Worster throws a wet rag over the concept of ``sustained development''; hails an American conservation revolution that views the land as an interdependent ecosystem; and calls for an end to all federal subsidies of western irrigation projects. As an alternative to federal and state management of resources, he speaks eloquently about individual responsibility for the environment. And when he's not warning about our current encroachments on nature, Worster can be especially illuminating about how the environment has affected our past- -pointing, for example, to the Midwest's overemphasis on wheat- growing as a cause of the Dust Bowl crisis of the 1930's; discussing the 1935 Soil Erosion Act, the first comprehensive legislation to preserve the lifeblood of American agriculture; and carefully tracing the evangelical fervor of America's greatest environmentalists to the dissident and missionary spirit of Protestantism. Probably too pessimistic on reconciling conservation with a market economy, but informed and lucid about how we've lost ground in the fight to save our natural resources.
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