Forcing the Spring: The Transformation Of The American Environmental Movement

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Forcing the Spring challenges standard histories of the environmental movement by offering a broad and inclusive interpretation of past environmentalist thought and a sweeping redefinition of the nature of the contemporary environmental movement. Robert Gottlieb demonstrates the centrality of environmental concerns to a wide range of social movements of the past century as he explores the connections between pressures on human and natural environments and the role of these pressures in shaping society. His analysis provides fundamental new insights into the past and future of the American environmental movement by placing it within the larger context of American social history.After considering the historical roots of environmentalism from the 1890s through the 1960s, Gottlieb discusses the rise and consolidation of environmental groups in the years between Earth Day 1970 and Earth Day 1990. He examines the increasing professionalization of the major environmental organizations and the parallel rise of community-based groups over the past decade, and ends with an in-depth consideration of the role of ethnicity, gender, and class in the formation and definition of movements.

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About the Author:

Robert Gottlieb is the author of several books on environmental and resource policy. Gottlieb is a long-time environmental and social justice activist whose writings have appeared in numerous New Left and environmental journals as well as The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Unomasuno.

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An earnest dissertation on environmentalism as a complex social movement that began in response to industrialization, urbanization, and the closing of the frontier. Gottlieb (A Life of Its Own, 1988, etc.), an environmental activist and lecturer at UCLA's Urban Planning Program, rejects as too narrow the view of the environmental movement as one rooted in the struggle to preserve nature. This view, he claims, overlooks environmentalism's urban and industrial ancestry: the social-reform movements of the 19th century that sought to improve the daily lives of working people. Gottlieb diligently traces the history of this more broadly defined environmentalism from the 1890's on. He selects Earth Day 1970 as a transitional event, marking the emergence of a new mainstream environmentalism as a powerful force in shaping policy at the federal level, and he scrutinizes the conflict between this professional, institutionalized environmentalism and alternative, community- based, direct-action groups. Unlike mainstream environmentalists, whom Gottlieb describes as working closely with government and industry, alternative groups are more confrontational, and the issues they tackle are often ones in which gender, race, and class play significant roles--e.g., exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace, with its disproportionately greater impact on blue-collar workers. The picture that emerges is one in which mainstream environmentalism has lost its way, with new direction coming from the alternative groups, the true descendants of 19th-century champions of social justice. By recognizing its social-reform roots and by redefining itself in broad terms, Gottlieb asserts that environmentalism can transform itself into a more democratic movement, one concerned with the total human environment. Impressive research and a clear message--if somewhat tedious in the telling. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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