A professor of political science and environmental policy at Harvey Mudd College cogently explores the ways in which individuals, corporations, local and national governments, and international organizations can stem damage to the environment.
Opening with a query concerning the efficacy of individual recycling when the environment is constantly under assault from so many other quarters, Steinberg (co-editor: Comparative Environmental Politics: Theory, Practice, and Prospects, with Stacy D. VanDever, 2012) offers case studies showing how various groups have contributed to either improving or destroying our planet. While it may be easy to characterize corporations as greedy vessels of harm, Steinberg provides examples of companies that have worked to combat environmental damage. Steinberg’s work is academic in nature, but he writes in such a manner as to be approachable for general readers. Each of his case studies opens with something familiar or comprehensible—a walk on the beach or a personal story about his time in the Peace Corps, for example—then expands to explore broader associated issues. Most of these studies reveal that the United States lags behind Europe and Canada in public policy that will protect our planet. However, although Steinberg focuses on the role of politics in exercising environmental policy, he maintains a neutral tone; still, to the potential surprise of liberals, many of these protective policies were enacted during the Nixon and Reagan presidencies. A variety of black-and-white illustrations enhance the text with graphs, photographs, tables, and archival reproductions (particularly poignant is a vintage advertisement showing a young boy exhorting his father to use leaded gas to improve their car’s speed). Most of Steinberg’s accounts are contemporary, but he does trace historical backgrounds to the 18th century. Rather than hopelessness for the irreparable damage already done, Steinberg offers the conclusion that a multifaceted approach of social change, government regulation (of the right kind), international cooperation, and corporate compliance could offer the same measure of improvement as those same factors once contributed to environmental harm.
Compelling multidisciplinary treatise on how progress toward sustainability can be achieved during our lifetime.