cover image In a Dark Wood: The Fight Over Forests and the New Tyranny of Ecology

In a Dark Wood: The Fight Over Forests and the New Tyranny of Ecology

Alston Chase. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $29.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-395-60837-1

The fight to save old-growth forests and threatened species in the Pacific Northwest has been the biggest environmental conflict in U.S.history in terms of area size, economic cost and the number of human beings affected. Chase (Playing God in Yellowstone) has written a well-documented account of the conflict and a provocative, penetrating analysis of the environmental movement. In the last two decades, he argues, radical activists moved from fact to value judgments, from science to politics. In the Northwest, the locale of the struggle became the media; journalists saturated public consciousness with the message of biocentrism, a philosophy that stresses humans are no more important than any other creatures. Chase argues this is bad science. He states that biocentrists can't distinguish fact from value and that random disturbance, not permanence or order, governs nature. Chase points out that the Endangered Species Act did not reflect scientific opinion but a confluence of ancient religious and philosophical thought. He views the fight over old-growth forests and owls as a kind of class war, a conflict among competing regional, vocational, recreational, aesthetic and economic interests. At present, the Clinton administration has adopted biocentrism as the guiding philosophy of all federal land management. Environmentalism, cautions the author, has taken a wrong turn. (Oct.)