The Ecology of Eden

Evan Eisenberg, Author
Evan Eisenberg, Author Alfred A. Knopf $30 (592p) ISBN 978-0-394-57750-0
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
Paperback - 640 pages - 978-0-375-70560-1
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In an encyclopedic effort encompassing fields as diverse as environmental studies, religion, urban studies, history and literature, among many others, Eisenberg (The Recording Angel: Music in Our Time) labors to determine ""humankind's place in nature, real and imagined."" In an extended and somewhat strained metaphor, he contrasts two extremes: that of the mountain and that of the tower, or respect for wilderness and control of nature, respectively. The first and last sections of this four-part work are the strongest. There, Eisenberg summarizes the ways humans have, over evolutionary time, dramatically altered the natural world, and he discusses possibilities for our living more in harmony with nature. The two middle parts--examining Edenic myths from various cultures throughout human history and looking at the ways those myths have influenced various aspects of Western civilization--are less focused and therefore less successful. Eisenberg's message, that a balance between ""planet fetishers"" and ""managers"" is both possible and desirable, is obscured by another extended metaphor, that of ""Earth Jazz."" Environmental harmony is possible, he contends, if we interact with the earth, responding to each other's nuances, in the same fashion that members of a jazz group play off of one another. Perhaps; but while Eisenberg himself plays many fascinating and surprising riffs here, his composition as a whole seems stretched, not quite balanced. (May)
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