RESTORING THE EARTH: How Americans Are Working to Renew Our Damaged Environment by John J. Berger

RESTORING THE EARTH: How Americans Are Working to Renew Our Damaged Environment

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A healthy antidote to the romantic twaddle about vanishing wildernesses and vanquished wildlife in the typical environmental tear-jerker. Whereas environmentalists have been obsessed with protecting pristine ecosystems, Berger astutely notes that, though important, these have been ""intrinsically rear-guard actions""; he set off to find people working to actually recover lost ground, including the millions of square acres of abandoned strip-mines, dwindling wetlands, polluted lakes and streams, etc. He found some astonishing successes. Three ecologists managed to persuade the physicists who run the Fermi National Accelerator Lab in Illinois to let them restore native prairie, perhaps this country's most endangered ecosystem, to the 650-acre site. During the past decade they have painstakingly planted native grasses and flowers, have reintroduced wildlife, such as the trumpeter swan, and plan to bring in prairie insects, especially those without functional wings, that couldn't fly back on their own. Another interesting chapter deals with restoring human habitat--the city. Since no one has attempted this to date, this essentially is an exercise in science fiction. Berger's rehabilitated rust-belt city is complete with genetically engineered ground cover or ""green asphalt"" to replace conventional pavement and high-tech apartment complexes that are self-sufficient in energy and food. Berger says such scattered local projects may lack the groundwork for a national restoration program capable of transforming the American landscape and providing millions of new jobs. Of course, restoration is no panacea. It's doubtful whether even the most ingenious technology could contain acid mine drainage or a toxic waste dump. Nevertheless, it is heartening to see humanity shedding its old ""ecological outlaw"" image to become landscape artist on a grand scale.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Knopf