FORCING THE SPRING

THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT

An earnest dissertation on environmentalism as a complex social movement that began in response to industrialization, urbanization, and the closing of the frontier. Gottlieb (A Life of Its Own, 1988, etc.), an environmental activist and lecturer at UCLA's Urban Planning Program, rejects as too narrow the view of the environmental movement as one rooted in the struggle to preserve nature. This view, he claims, overlooks environmentalism's urban and industrial ancestry: the social-reform movements of the 19th century that sought to improve the daily lives of working people. Gottlieb diligently traces the history of this more broadly defined environmentalism from the 1890's on. He selects Earth Day 1970 as a transitional event, marking the emergence of a new mainstream environmentalism as a powerful force in shaping policy at the federal level, and he scrutinizes the conflict between this professional, institutionalized environmentalism and alternative, community- based, direct-action groups. Unlike mainstream environmentalists, whom Gottlieb describes as working closely with government and industry, alternative groups are more confrontational, and the issues they tackle are often ones in which gender, race, and class play significant roles—e.g., exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace, with its disproportionately greater impact on blue-collar workers. The picture that emerges is one in which mainstream environmentalism has lost its way, with new direction coming from the alternative groups, the true descendants of 19th-century champions of social justice. By recognizing its social-reform roots and by redefining itself in broad terms, Gottlieb asserts that environmentalism can transform itself into a more democratic movement, one concerned with the total human environment. Impressive research and a clear message—if somewhat tedious in the telling.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1993

ISBN: 1-55963-123-6

Page Count: 410

Publisher: Island Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1993

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

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LAB GIRL

Award-winning scientist Jahren (Geology and Geophysics/Univ. of Hawaii) delivers a personal memoir and a paean to the natural world.

The author’s father was a physics and earth science teacher who encouraged her play in the laboratory, and her mother was a student of English literature who nurtured her love of reading. Both of these early influences engrossingly combine in this adroit story of a dedication to science. Jahren’s journey from struggling student to struggling scientist has the narrative tension of a novel and characters she imbues with real depth. The heroes in this tale are the plants that the author studies, and throughout, she employs her facility with words to engage her readers. We learn much along the way—e.g., how the willow tree clones itself, the courage of a seed’s first root, the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi, and the airborne signals used by trees in their ongoing war against insects. Trees are of key interest to Jahren, and at times she waxes poetic: “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.” The author draws many parallels between her subjects and herself. This is her story, after all, and we are engaged beyond expectation as she relates her struggle in building and running laboratory after laboratory at the universities that have employed her. Present throughout is her lab partner, a disaffected genius named Bill, whom she recruited when she was a graduate student at Berkeley and with whom she’s worked ever since. The author’s tenacity, hope, and gratitude are all evident as she and Bill chase the sweetness of discovery in the face of the harsh economic realities of the research scientist.

Jahren transcends both memoir and science writing in this literary fusion of both genres.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-87493-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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