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A Fierce Green Fire: The American Environmental Movement Paperback – 30 Nov 2003

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Product Description

About the Author

Philip Shabecoff is an environmental writer based in Massachusetts. He was a reporter for the New York Times for more than 30 years, and founded the online environmental news service Greenwire in 1991 and served as its publisher until 1996. His books include A New Name for Peace (University Press of New England, 1996) and Earth Rising (Island Press, 2000).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Ultimately broad but shallow 18 Jan. 2008
By Arthur Digbee - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book provides a readable introduction to the history of the American environmental movement. If you're looking for a relatively superficial overview, this may be a good book for you. Be warned, however, that Shabecoff does not really address any particular topic in any depth.

The first two chapters cover ground familiar to readers of Roderick Nash's classic history of wilderness. Nash is much better at this general level, and manages to convey a deeper understanding of the issues at the same time. This intellectual history also overlaps with the substance of Max Oelschlager's far more challenging account, which provides a more in-depth and "philosophical" discussion of these thinkers if that's what you want.

Throughout the book, Shabecoff is pretty uncritical of the environmental movement. As a result, he mostly ignores internal conflicts, and debates over strategy within the movement - - to say nothing of outsiders and environmentalists' opponents.

Views will doubtless vary on these points, but I also found Shabecoff to be an untrustworthy judge of various issues. For example, I was surprised to see his claim that environmentalists view the Reclamation Act of 1902 as a "mixed blessing" - - wasn't it rather a disaster? This Act led to massive destruction of almost every river in the western United States, with unproductive and ecologically damaging irrigation throughout the region. Similarly, Shabecoff also has nice things to say about the Tennessee Valley Authority, whose environmental destruction at least had the advantage of contributing to the economic development of the poorest region in the United States. To his credit, in this case Shabecoff did try to respond to the obvious criticisms of the TVA.

Such examples convinced me that Shabecoff just hasn't thought very hard about this material. He spins a nice, readable story but if you're looking for a more informative account of the environmental movement and its challenges, this is not it.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Review - A Fierce Green Fire 2 Jan. 2007
A Kid's Review - Published on
Format: Paperback
A Fierce Green Fire provides an in-depth account of the history of the environmental movement in America. Phillip Shabecoff, writer for the New York Times, writes with much experience in the field of environmentalism. The book maintains a nice balance of description and conclusion, and holds the interest of the audience by noting specific examples and stories from both national and grassroots environmental efforts. The book is very specific and introduces several original theories regarding the evolution of this social movement. Shabecoff maintains an appropriate and rational tone throughout the book as he explains the ups and downs of the effectiveness of the movement between decades and among presidents. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone truly interested in environmental science, as it compiles information from many sources into one fantastic account.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A thorough, if somewhat biased history 28 Feb. 2006
By David Carroll - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is very thorough in covering the entire history of the American environmental movement. It starts by describing the waste and destruction caused by the European explorers who would later colonize and settle the vast, seemingly untouched American continent. At first it seemed that nobody knew of or cared about environmental protection, but eventually a few voices started calling out for reform. People started to realize that they could not do whatever they wanted to the earth and not suffer the consequences. Out of early movements to protect wilderness lands and wildlife by organizations such as the Audobon Society and the Sierra Club, environmentalism started to increase its ranks. It also broadened its range of issues to take on pollution, toxic waste dumps, and sustainable uses of natural resources. The book describes the second wave of environmentalism as a militant and passionate cause, and the third wave as more conciliatory and willing to work with business and industry. It ends on a pessimistic note, describing the antienvironmental policies of George W. Bush and what must be done to combat these types of actions in order to protect the earth.

Overall, I liked this book. It presented the viewpoints of all different kinds of environmentalists, ranging from wildlife conservationists to adovactes of socialism, governmental regulation, anti-industry tree-huggers, conservatives, and even the radical, violent eco-thugs who blow up whaling ships. The book was somewhat biased against industry and the free market, even if the author probably wouldn't admit it. I didn't really appreciate some of the closed-minded bashing of conservative Republicans; some are really bad, such as George W. Bush, but others did help the environment, such as Teddy Roosevelt. Overall, however, this book was not completely liberal propaganda, and it was interesting to learn about where environmentalism came from and what its goals are.
Poorly written and shallow. 31 Aug. 2014
By GrnBstd - Published on
Format: Paperback
The reviewer who noted the book's shallowness is correct--there's nothing here that isn't in other, better sources (e.g. Nash). On top of that, it's written in a corny, convoluted style that gets really irritating quickly. He loves to separate his subject and predicate with unnecessary qualifying relative clauses or appositives. Sometimes 4-5 consecutive sentences will follow this pattern. If there was any substance, I wouldn't mind wading through the prose, but there isn't. It's hard to believe that he wrote for Time.
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