THE GREEN CRUSADE by Charles T. Rubin


Rethinking the Roots of Environmentalism


 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.

Pub Date: April 4th, 1994
ISBN: 0-02-927525-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1994