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A History of American Environmentalism

by Pat McCarthy

Age Range: 10 - 13

Pub Date: March 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-56976-718-4
Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Brief biographies of early conservationists and environmentalists provide a look at the development of the movement.

Readers meet John James Audubon, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Roger Tory Peterson and Rachel Carson, as well as less familiar names: Cordelia Stanwood, Gifford Pinchot, Aldo Leopold, Marjory Stoneman Douglas and Margaret “Mardy” Murie. Each featurette is about six to eight pages long, offering enough detail to provide a flavor of the people’s lives and explain their significance to the movement. Each chapter includes one or more activities (mostly simple science experiments) themed to match the biography—not always successfully. The activity for the Muir chapter is to bake oatmeal scones, which seems strange when compared to others: bird identification, making a plaster cast of an animal footprint or a bird feeder, etc. The last section describes future challenges. The text is mostly written in short sentences that don’t jibe with the more complex content and may sometimes perplex readers: “For years, we’ve heard the cry, ‘Save the rainforest!’ This is another side of deforestation.” This effort offers an odd mix of complexity and oversimplification: “The rate of global warming can be slowed if people will take a few simple steps”—carpooling, using public transit, eschewing motorized transportation and limiting trips. More useful for the biographies than the environmental information.

An only-serviceable collective biography for those interested in the history of the movement. (Collective biography. 10-13)