Shrinking the Earth: The Rise and Decline of American Abundance

Donald Worster. Oxford Univ, $27.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-19-984495-1
Environmental historian Worster (A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir) thoughtfully addresses natural resources and the toll humans have exacted on nature over time. He leads into his discussion via F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, claiming that the classic novel can be considered “one of the country’s earliest environmental laments.” When Nick Carraway spoke of the mysterious green light in the distance, Worster contends, he could have been referring to “nature’s green light of infinite promise.” When European settlers arrived, the Americas “promised untapped seas, minerals hidden in underground seams and veins, wild-growing plants and animals, and all the forms of energy latent in the earth’s crust.” As people built houses and businesses, developed land, eked out livelihoods, opened factories, and manufactured automobiles, they used resources they did not or could not easily replenish. Industrialization would also give rise to a conservation movement that “sought not an end to all growth but an end to uncontrolled and unlimited growth.” Books from the late 1940s and early 1950s called for “a more critical-minded view of history and progress,” helping to initiate debates among natural scientists, engineers, economists, politicians, and voters. Worster’s literary conceit might be a stretch, but his thorough history reveals much about American environmentalism. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/07/2015
Release date: 02/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
MP3 CD - 978-1-5226-4281-7
Paperback - 280 pages - 978-0-19-084985-6
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