A brilliantly informed look at one of the most pressing problems of the '90s--the waste crisis--by an economic development expert (How Can Africa Survive?, not reviewed). Over the course of two centuries, Americans have energetically exploited their natural resources to produce more things for more people than any previous civilization. Because of the rise of advertising and consumer credit, the culture of our frugal, self- sufficient forebears evolved into a nation born to shop. Now, at the end of four decades of unprecedented growth, says Whitaker, we face depleted resources and a rising tide of household garbage, sewage, industrial toxins, agricultural chemicals, and nuclear residues that cumulatively threaten to swamp the material world that sustains us. With convincing thoroughness and disturbing clarity, Whitaker delineates the exact nature of our predicament: Our current waste management is inadequate and misdirected; our time-honored fix-its of technology and private enterprise are not up to the job. Environmental regulation, she further argues, has largely failed us, and even our best science is stumped by too many unknowns. Whitaker contends that the only thing that will save our environment is a complete change of political direction--one that slows our pattern of consumption and growth and initiates rewards for cutbacks in our use of materials. She hopes this will be achieved not by government dictates--which Americans have historically resisted--but through the more readily acceptable route of market incentives. Whitaker's ambitious plan to radically restructure the marketplace as well as our economic assumptions leaves some important questions unanswered, but it is nonetheless a valuable jumping-off point for further discussion. A compelling addition to the ongoing conservation debate, with new ideas on how we might stop trashing the earth.