PROGRESS AND PRIVILEGE: America in the Age of Environmentalism by William Tucker

PROGRESS AND PRIVILEGE: America in the Age of Environmentalism

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In his introduction, Tucker states: ""This book is an attempt to save environmentalism from the environmentalists."" He then launches into a sophisticated sociopolitical analysis of the environmental movement that constitutes the strongest radical critique around. Environmentalism, Tucker argues, developed from a coalition of ""old wealth"" and the upper-middle-class, and is basically a conservative movement of those who want to retain their privilege at the expense of small business, bluecollar labor, and the poor. ""Who are the people,"" Tucker asks, ""to whom progress no longer matters?"" Furthermore, environmentalists' concern about the ""population bomb"" is really a disguised worry that ""there are too many poor people"" in the Third World. They have responded by adopting either a Malthusian view, espoused by Paul Ehrlich (we should not share our resources and technology with the Third World because that would only exacerbate the population problem), or a pseudo-Marxist view, espoused by Barry Commoner (our technology and world-view is itself flawed and should not be allowed to proliferate). The idea of the ""Wilderness Area,"" defended so vigorously by the movement, is based on a profound misunderstanding of the science of ecology and cybernetics. And we are not using up our resources; on the contrary, technology has assured that utilization of resources becomes cheaper and eaiser with each generation. Finally, Tucker links environmentalists with the Fundamentalists and the ""revolt against science,"" and he calls for a ""return to progress."" Environmentalists will find these conclusions shocking and outrageous, yet Tucker's arguments are well formulated, and he is always careful to qualify them. He is perhaps a little too fond of attacking the silliest claims of the movement, throwing a smokescreen over the real issues. And at times he is plain wrong: the primary reason to let forest fires burn in wilderness is not, as Tucker asserts, that some evergreens require fire to seed, but because the pile-up of deadwood has been shown to cause vastly greater danger of uncontrollable fire; and snowmobiles are not totally harmless--they clip off the tops of young evergreens (and have ruined tree plantations), while their noise, which carries for miles, causes deer to run to death. But his main arguments are mostly solid and certainly provocative.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1982
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday