THE EAGLE BIRD by Charles F. Wilkinson


Mapping a New West


 In 12 pithy essays, an environmental lawyer debunks romantic myths of ranchers, miners, and foresters as ``heroes of the West,'' and denounces ``extreme laissez-faire'' government policies that have allowed these ``heroes'' to devastate the land, water, and air for their private profit. Instead, Wilkinson calls for an ``ethic of place'' to balance human and natural values in ways that can be sustained over time. The author portrays the often-bitter confrontations between loggers, miners, or hunters and environmentalists as reflections of our society's shifting values governing human relationships with the land. We now value biology, aesthetics, and justice for indigenous people more than the short-term economic worth of extractive industries, he says. Wilkinson's ``ethic of place'' would replace confrontational politics with a shared sense of love and responsibility for the land, and he gives several examples of how westerners might build on their already shared reverence for the land to develop this set of values. All of the examples require compromise and adjustment by both resource managers and environmentalists--e.g., ranch-consultant Allan Savori's plan to increase the number of cattle grazing on public land, having them take over the ecological niche once filled by the buffalo, while ranchers carefully monitor and control the animals' effect on the ecology. Engaging if not particularly well-integrated, Wilkinson's essays exemplify the land-based ethical systems now developing among progressive western thinkers and honorably maintain the nature-upholding tradition of John Muir and Aldo Leopold.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-679-40895-9
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1992