Green Crusade

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9780029275252: Green Crusade

As recently as fifty years ago, the billowing industrial smokestack was a proud symbol of progress and power; today it is an image of unbridled corporate irresponsibility. This change in public attitudes reflects a shift in social values as rapid and profound as any in American history. Its effects are so far-reaching that scarcely anyone imagines there was ever an alternative view of the relationship between human beings and nature. Yet for all the time and energy devoted to discussion of environmentalism as a social and political movement, no one has questioned its existence as a coherent philosophy or given an account of how it first emerged in public consciousness. Most people would assume that the environmental idea, and the powerful political movement it inspired, must have emerged in response to self evident environmental problems such as air and water pollution, acid rain, the human destruction of natural habitats, and the resulting extinction of endangered species. But Charles T. Rubin argues that environmental problems are far from being a matter of common sense. He points out that while such situations almost certainly existed in the past, they were defined in different terms?implying different kinds of social and political solutions. Rubin tells the story of this massive yet strangely unnoticed transformation of public perception and social morality by focusing on the small group of influential writers and thinkers?Rachel Carson, Barry Commoner, Paul Ehrlich, E. F. Schumacher, and others -whose enormously popular writings gave birth to the environmental movement as we know it.

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About the Author:

Charles T. Rubin teaches political science at Duquesne University. He resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

From Kirkus Reviews:

From Rubin (Political Science/Duquesne), a stinging, often overblown reevaluation of the environmental movement's seminal thinkers. Over the last 30 years, a sea change has taken place in the public's ``common sense'' about the environment, which Rubin attributes to a small group of influential writers and thinkers. But it seems not to have occurred to the author that people may have reacted equally to threats they could see (oil spills, smog) as to the theories of ``popularizers.'' His account is problematic, too, in its way of pairing authors who may not have explored the full implications of their work with others who have. While it may be appropriate to discuss together population-control advocates Paul Ehrlich and Garrett Hardin or limited growth exponents the Club of Rome and E.F. Schumacher (of Small Is Beautiful fame), it is a disservice to the apolitical Rachel Carson to group her with socialist Barry Commoner. Rubin paints these advocates with a broad brush for their alleged ``careless use of science'' and for ``failing to recognize the utopian and totalitarian character of the principles they have relied on.'' Although Ehrlich and especially Hardin and the so-called ``deep ecology'' movement offer sometimes Orwellian prescriptions for problems, it seems absurd for Rubin to liken the rest of the internally fractious environmental movement to the lock-step ideologies of fascism and communism. His comparing of environmentalists to Prohibitionists is similarly misplaced: the utopian moralism of both groups has been a strain in American thinking since Puritan jeremiads and has marked such other movements as populism, progressivism, and feminism. Rubin is most convincing when showing that the environmentalists sound often less like Cassandras than like Chicken Littles (as in Ehrlich's prediction, for example, that the oceans would die by 1979). Overall, as injudicious in its use of evidence and as extreme in its rhetoric as were the thinkers it pummels. -- Copyright 1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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