Terra Nova: The New World After Oil, Cars, and Suburbs

Eric W. Sanderson. Abrams, $32.50 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4197-0434-5
Likening oil, cars, and suburbs to modern-day Sirens, those "beautiful winged monsters" that tempted Odysseus with their songs, conservation ecologist Sanderson (Mannahatta) discourages an over-reliance on these things in this well-intentioned cautionary volume. The comparison is an ambitious one he employs throughout, believing they could doom Americans the way the Sirens would have doomed Odysseus, had he succumbed to their choruses. Sanderson lays out details on oil drilling, for example, tracing American interests back to 19th century businessmen such as John D. Rockefeller, whose ability to "consolidate, integrate, and ruthlessly out-compete everyone else" helped to turn Standard Oil into a monopoly. Subsequent sections deal with oil consumption and foreign resources as well as the rise in popularity—and accessibility—of gas-dependent vehicles on U.S. roads. "Car companies, rubber companies, oil companies, and their advertisers" managed to convince consumers "Americans wouldn't be American if we didn't drive." Further infrastructure led to the growth of suburbs in the 20th century, but what we gained in living space and shopping malls we lost in community. Sanderson commendably outlines "a new way of life...designed to sustain American prosperity, health, and freedom for generations to come," but whether his suggestions or admonitions will be taken seriously is another matter entirely. (May)
Reviewed on: 07/15/2013
Release date: 06/01/2013
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