"HOPE, HUMAN AND WILD" by Bill McKibben


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A tuneless song of praise for the Earth and the possibilities of its restoration to ecological health. McKibben recognizes that the environment is in trouble; in his debut book, The End of Nature (1989), he rightly observed that there are few landscapes and ecosystems on the planet that have not been substantially altered at human hands. Here he turns in a book that is in the main ""devoted to strategies for retooling our societies and economies so they do less damage,"" a potentially fine project that goes unfulfilled. McKibben's strategies too often involve reaction in the place of analysis--""Rush Limbaugh's bluster, sadly, is no match for the gathering pall of greenhouse gases,"" he writes unhelpfully. The useful information with which his book is studded--in particular his short section on the clear-cutting of North America's ancient forests and his asides on the loss of sociodiversity along with biodiversity--never coheres into a unified argument. His paean to the American nature writer John Burroughs, whose work McKibben has edited, and his visits to the ""green"" cities of Curitiba, Brazil, and Kerala, India, similarly do not connect as anything other than touchstones for a fondly imagined society that ""might be starting the climb down from overdevelopment."" Although he has something of the encyclopedic sense of detail that drives the work of John McPhee, alongside whose The Control of Nature this book will likely be shelved, McKibben seldom leaves the plane of vague remarks. It is not enough simply to assert, as he does, that ""for those concerned about the environment, this is a strange season of waiting, a hard time for hope."" That may be so, but the lack of conclusions lend this book an unfinished, unrealized feel. One needs blueprints and plans, not slogans, in order to retool. They are not to be found here.

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 1995
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: "Little, Brown"