NO TURNING BACK by Wallace Kaufman


Dismantling the Fantasies of Environmental Thinking
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 In classic jilted-lover style, former environmental activist Kaufman (The Beaches Are Moving, 1979) levels some sharp and deserving criticisms at the environmental movement, but loses credibility when he just can't find one good word for his former partner. Why is it, Kaufman wonders, that as the environmental movement in this country grows stronger, the quality of the environment keeps getting worse? Is it because that movement is run through with piners aching for a golden past and with baloney-filled doomsayers? Is the movement the purveyor of bad science and selective statistics, as Kaufman suggests? He is right in saying that environmentalism often bogs down in its Romantic vision of nature, but one of the movement's strengths has been its distrust of experts, all too often wrong in their forecasts; it welcomes the poet as well as the scientist, even if they do fiddle with the numbers. Kaufman seems to lose touch with reality when he claims that science (seen as a value-free wonderland) and capitalism (with its credo of self-interest) are all the tools we need for a better environmental future. Didn't those two bring us Bhopal, Three-Mile Island, Love Canal? No matter--we know what we want, nature doesn't care, so let's go get it, Kaufman says. Irradiate, it's good! Genetically engineer, it's new! Kaufman is capable of some of the most extraordinarily dingbat comments to come down the pike in a while: ``Science will provide,'' and, in reference to Beat poet Gary Snyder's Zen leanings, ``I wonder if [he] would mind being killed and eaten by a lion if it would say please and thank you.'' Clearly in Kaufman's brave new world there is no room for such namby-pambyness as intuition, doubt, wanting a second opinion, or concern for the consequences of rushing into the unknown. Kaufman comes across as a blend of science fetishist, free- market wonk, and immense sour grape--his good points sadly lost in the blather.

Pub Date: Aug. 31st, 1994
ISBN: 0-465-05118-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1994


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