Crisis of the Wasteful Nation: Empire and Conservation in Theodore Roosevelt’s America

Ian Tyrrell. Univ. of Chicago, $40 (368p) ISBN 978-0-226-19776-0
To assume that American environmentalism is a recent phenomenon would be wrong, according to retired history professor Tyrrell (True Gardens of the Gods). Political and economic concern for our natural world dates back at least to the early 1900s, influencing legislation domestically and internationally. In this ambitious and well-intentioned volume, Tyrrell charts the conservation movement during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, delineating the key players, including Roosevelt himself and Gifford Pinchot, chief of the Division of Forestry from 1898 to 1910. Tyrrell incorporates political history, environmental history, and “the history of environmental diplomacy” as he lays out the complex but mutually respectful relationship between the two men. Roosevelt and Pinchot (who served the president as “de facto second-in-command for domestic affairs”) worked with others, such as Secretary of the Interior James Garfield, “to dramatize the problem of resource waste and destruction” and to enact progressive reforms regulating land use and protecting wildlife. Tyrrell’s discussion, unfortunately, gets mired in intellectual jargon—as when he writes of “purely economic efficiency achieved through a regime of technocrats”—and makes it less accessible to general audiences. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/24/2014
Release date: 01/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
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