THE LAST REFUGE: Patriotism, Politics, and the Environment in an Age of Terror

David W. Orr, Author
David W. Orr, Author . Island $20 (172p) ISBN 978-1-55963-528-8
Reviewed on: 03/01/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Paperback - 212 pages - 978-1-59726-032-9
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In 13 essays, Orr, professor of environmental studies and politics at Oberlin, critiques what he says is the current Bush administration's lack of environmental policy and calls for a more engaged citizenry. Orr sets the scene by relating a 2001 meeting with noncommittal White House staffers in which he and other leading environmentalists presented an environmental status report, entitled "Common Ground/Common Futures." "The news was delivered," he writes. "But no one was home." The present state of environmental affairs, he says, reflects "an unconstrained managerial and well-armed plutocracy intent on global plunder." Orr advocates a coherent environmental agenda, vigorous public information, restored political leadership and increased emphasis on environmental study in higher education. Specific essays focus on particular figures in the debate: one exposes Bjorn Lomberg, a favorite author of Dick Cheney's, as "scientifically dishonest," while another praises writer Wendell Berry's commitment to agrarian ideals. Perhaps the most informative essay in the collection, entitled "Leverage," examines the meager patchwork of U.S. environmental regulations and the nation's libertarian tendencies. Orr's politics will be familiar to all left-wing readers. There is little originality in his criticisms of the right and its attitude toward natural resources and energy efficiency. Orr's writing is steeped in sometimes utopian antimodern longings for small family farms, ecologically sound urban planning, increased public transportation and ecological diversity. While it's not hard to imagine how these essays might energize a readership committed to Orr's brand of politics, their rhetoric is too repetitive and ponderously moralizing to win wider audiences for their ideas. (Apr. 6)

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