Enthusiastic account of a dozen Americans currently making spectacular contributions to the preservation of the environment.
Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Humes (Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America’s Soul, 2007, etc.) delivers the usual litany of ecological outrages but concentrates on hopeful accomplishments. After cashing out of Esprit, the hugely successful fashion company he founded with former wife Susie, Doug Tompkins has devoted his millions to purchasing immense areas in Chile and Argentina to preserve as permanent wilderness. Far less wealthy, Peter Galvin and Kieran Suckling established the Center for Biological Diversity, a scrappy group that specializes in suing the U.S. government. For decades, officials ignored existing laws, enabling logging and development to proceed undisturbed. Through aggressive lawsuits and petitions, the Center forced the government to enforce the law and protect forests and endangered species; it even persuaded the Bush administration to admit that global warming exists. Thirty years of battles have taught activists the necessity of finding middle ground. The last great wild forest east of the Rockies, in Maine, and Tejon Ranch, an ecological preserve just north of Los Angeles that is home of the endangered California condor, will be developed, but developers have agreed to donate much of their lands to preservationists so that they can exploit the rest free of lawsuits. This, admits the author, may be the best we can hope for. Further eco-friendly accomplishments, such as the plug-in hybrid car, seem just around the corner. Others, like saving the polar bear or sea turtle from extinction, are not assured. Many will involve painful compromises.
An optimistic book filled with genuine heroes, but it also reminds us that saving the planet is a war in which the bad guys show no signs of giving up.