The Ecocentrists: A History of Radical Environmentalism

Keith Makoto Woodhouse. Columbia Univ., $35 (384p) ISBN 978-0-231-16588-4
Historian Woodhouse offers a deeply researched and thoughtful reappraisal of the ideas and tactics of the radical environmentalist fringe that, driven by a sense of crisis, broke away from the larger environmental movement in the 1980s. The first half of the book details the rise of modern environmentalism as a political and cultural force, emanating from relatively small but determined bands of conservationists led by figures such as the Sierra Club’s David Brower. Woodhouse carefully traces the reversals, contradictions, coalitions, and rifts in the environmental movement, which, by the early 1970s, was professionalized and transformed into a powerful political lobby. In the 1980s, movement veterans frustrated by trade-offs in the cause of wilderness protection—hardliner Dave Forman lamented that “for the one sweet plum of the Alaskan National Monuments, [the major conservation groups] failed to sue” to contest Forest Service recommendations preserving only a paltry amount of roadless wilderness. Earth First!, founded in 1980, is an exemplar of this movement, with its ecocentric worldview that places human beings in moral equivalence with nature. Insightful and well-grounded in the literature, this is required reading for historians of environmentalism and modern political movements and, for the general reader, a stimulating introduction to an urgent area of popular concern. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/07/2018
Release date: 06/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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