Victor Scheffer writes of a social revolution. Environmentalism began as a revelation that the resources supporting life are limited and that men and women can--if they act wisely and soon--reduce their material demands and their numbers before limits are reached and the richness of human existence is diminished forever. The revelation grew into a revolution driven by a morality of life or death for the human race. Environmentalism is not a word deeply rooted in the American vernacular. It was seldom used before the appearance of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring in 1962, although warnings about the environment had been sounded earlier. It has roots in conservation--the preservation and careful use of natural resources--and in ecology--the study of the relastionships between these roots. It describes areas of major concern to environmentalists in the sixties and seventies, ranging from wasted croplands and forests through endangered species to birth control. It reports progress on three fronts: educational, legal, and political.
Richly anecdotal, the book is an informal history of a generation of aroused citizens who began to see their outdoor surroundings--and indeed all of Planet Earth--in a new light. The formative years of the movement-1960 to 1980-are central to the narrative. By 1980 environmentalism as a social science, a field of political management, a philosophy, and to many a religion, was firmly in place. The movement met with notable setbacks during the Reagan years, however, and Scheffer concludes his narrative with an epilogue highlighting environmental events from 1981 to 1989. Although veterans of the movement will find much in the book familiar territory, they will welcome the broad coverage of crises, decisions, and laws that set the stage for environmental victories. As a new generation joins the environmental movement, the book will help them understand the moral impetus that gave birth to environmentalism and the public awareness and concern for change that grew with the movement. 17 b&w illus.