A GOOD FOREST FOR DYING: The Tragic Death of a Young Man on the Front Lines of the Environmental Wars

Patrick Beach, Author . Doubleday $24.95 (271p) ISBN 978-0-385-50617-5

On a September day in 1998, David Nathan "Gypsy" Chain, an Earth First! activist, was killed on a mountain slope in the redwood forest of California. Earth First! cried murder, and celebrities like Bonnie Raitt joined in honoring Gypsy as a martyr slain by corporate greed. Pacific Lumber, which owned the land where Gypsy was protesting tree cutting, blamed the activists themselves. What really happened that day, and why was the event so polarizing? Beach, a writer for the Austin (Tex.) American-Statesman , has no simple answers. He explores the long history of the conflict, which encompasses not only a wide range of environmental beliefs and tactics but also the different viewpoints of loggers and corporate management. He describes the short life of Gypsy Chain, a sensitive but sometimes troubled young man who discovered, in the fight to save the redwoods, a transforming sense of purpose. And he reports the struggle of Gypsy's family and fellow activists to find justice through a seemingly hostile court system. Though Beach attempts fairness to all sides, his sense of moral outrage is never far from the surface—and his rib-kicking prose takes no prisoners. Yet he switches viewpoints so quickly and so often it is difficult to determine which passages are in his own voice: does he really believe the loggers are "like the cowed inhabitants of a totalitarian state," for example? In the end he confesses to being a "raging moderate" on environmental issues, but also notes that "protest groups are... the living world's immunological response." A crucial point—but, the larger question of how to make future policy remains unexplored. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/02/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
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