Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility

Ted Nordhaus, Author, Michael Shellenberger, Author . Houghton Mifflin $25 (344p) ISBN 978-0618658251

Three years after their contentious, seminal essay, “The Death of Environmentalism,” advocated a radical reassessment of the global warming dilemma, career environmental activists Nordhaus and Shellenberger present the book version, which mines postmaterialist thought for solutions that fall somewhere between the death threats and Band-Aid solutions they say are currently masquerading as debate and progress. Arguing that preservation requires something “qualitatively different from limiting our contamination of nature,” Nordhaus and Shellenberger contend that, as Americans, we must collectively sacrifice our standard of living to reverse the inevitable, a seemingly impossible but necessary task in a nation plagued by affluence envy and credit card debt. Referencing a wide array of current political and environmental work, the authors show how current pop environmentalism (think Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth ) is mired in a “pollution paradigm... profoundly inadequate for understanding and dealing with global warming.” True progress, they contend, requires embracing a pragmatic approach to the constantly changing world, rather than a stubborn belief that “all things have an essential unchanging nature,” which can be protected or restored. Though their plan to sell the largest middle class in history on “a new vision of prosperity” (defining wealth by “overall well-being”) seems like a long shot, their big-picture ideas are important and intensely argued, making this a convincing, resonant and hopeful primer on “postenvironmentalism.” (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 12/31/2007
Release date: 10/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 344 pages - 978-0-547-08595-1
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