The 40-year history of the National Resources Defense Council.
In this wholly positive view of NRDC, the authors write from the perspective of John Adams, the co-founder and longtime president. Though to some extent a personal memoir, the book is primarily an institutional history filled with insider details. The organization began as a group of lawyers suing to enforce environmental laws, so effectively that they nicknamed themselves “the shadow EPA.” With time their approach broadened, primarily because of political leaders hostile to environmentalism, who come in for criticism here. The authors repeatedly emphasize the successes that came from negotiating with adversaries, building a membership to provide public pressure and showing companies how environmentally friendly practices can be in their financial interest. Similarly, the issues of concern to NRDC expanded beyond the original focus on “clean water, clean air, a sustainable environment, and the preservation of America’s unique wilderness.” For example, they were instrumental in setting up nuclear-test monitoring stations in the United States and Soviet Union with an eye to promoting disarmament. Despite covering many campaigns and introducing an enormous number of people, the narrative is never dry or repetitive. Today, the authors insist that what “NRDC and the environmental movement ultimately will be remembered for is what we did to deal with the climate crisis.” Some environmentalists have called the authors too optimistic about the eventual resolution of the issue and criticized their willingness to endorse imperfect regulations. In response, they argue that it is more important to get started than to insist on perfection and, with NRDC’s long string of victories behind it, they express confidence of eventual success. The book begins with a foreword by Robert Redford, one of the many celebrities mentioned as major NRDC supporters.
A relentlessly upbeat but necessary story of an important environmental organization.