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 Fitzpatrick (science editor of Washington University's PR office) takes the measure, through interview/portraits with local land stewards, of the environmental depradations besieging the states of Illinois and Missouri. From corn-growing megafarms to beguiling landscapes of crumpled hills, wooded valleys, and swift streams, much is environmentally amiss in the Midwest: acid rain, pesticide runoff, destructive agricultural practices, habitat loss, dying small towns, disappearing songbirds. It is little wonder, then, that Fitzpatrick feels a sense of alarm. Botanists, harvesters, biologists, birders, and others give him an earful, outlining the many obstacles they encounter in their pursuit of a less poisoned, less corrupted land. While there are instances of hope here- -inspiring examples of people thumbing their noses at received opinion and possible economic ruin to do the right thing (be it no- till farming, wolf reintroduction, earthworm breeding, whatever)- -it's hard to shake the feeling of gloom that pervades these pages. Fitzpatrick can get real existential about the sorry state of environmental affairs in the region: Pure and simple, he says, the land is dying, and species are vaporizing in what has become another Age of Extinction. Fitzpatrick conveys the pain of irreparable loss time and again, but, thankfully, there are some wonderful rambles and botanical marvels that he takes in as well during his visits afield, lifting his tale from its lugubrious inclinations. Few will accuse Fitzpatrick of shouting prairie fire as he convincingly argues that environmental evils are upon the land, that the villains are of the nastiest sort, and that the outcome may be seriously bad news.

Pub Date: Jan. 20th, 1993
ISBN: 0-8027-1260-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Walker
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1992