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Living Through the End of Nature: The Future of American Environmentalism Hardcover – February 12, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Wapner is one of the world's leading scholars of environmental politics and his latest book, Living Through the End of Nature, is a sophisticated exploration of the future of the environmental movement. If you dream of a better tomorrow, Wapner's book will lead the way.

(Peter Dauvergne, Professor of Political Science and Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Politics, University of British Columbia, author of Shadows of Consumption)

Design is the first signal of human intention. Given the state of the world today, it is clear: nature doesn't have a design problem, people do. As the 'dominant' species our design question now encompasses the entire world and takes us to the essential places of human intention and natural experience and their interdependence. Paul Wapner, with this book, takes us on a richly informed exploration of these essential places so that we may divine a path forward worthy of our promise as a species. For me, as a designer, the fundamental design question remains: 'How do we love all the children of all species for all time?'

(William McDonough, author of Cradle to Cradle)

These are important ideas about what nature means, and what it doesn't mean -- it's a strong voice in an intellectual argument that needs to continue, because it bears very heavily on the practical choices we now face.

(Bill McKibben, author of Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet)

Anyone who grapples with the slippery semantics of 'nature' is practicing a form of intellectual bravery few of us seem willing to endure. And for good reason. As we discover in Paul Wapner's deep and poignant treatment of the subject, there is no easy resting place between an environmentalist's love of nature and his mastery of it.

(Mark Dowie, author of Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century (MIT Press))

In this insightful and well-structured book, Wapner points clearly to the dilemmas and difficulties in modern environmentalism. To survive and succeed, it has had to draw boundaries between good and evil, right and wrong, and humans and nature. Yet it is these very borders that have led to polarised dreams of naturalism and mastery. The truth is that there is no such thing as a single environmentalist movement -- it is highly variegated. It will have to find a way into, as Wapner puts it, a 'postnature age'.

(Jules Pretty Times Higher Education)

Wapner is right: environmentalists have to adjust to a world without pristine nature. And once they do, they are bound to invent environmental techniques that go beyond creating protected areas. In future, the wilderness may be less wild, but our cities, suburbs, farms and industrial sites will be wilder.

(Emma Marris Nature)

Wapner's book is the most sophisticated analysis of the theoretical issues underlying contemporary environmentalism yet written. In easily accessible language, Wapner unveils some of the contradictions facing environmentalism. For example, he shows that while environmentalism 'wants to preserve, conserve, and sustain the more-than-human realm, which involves minimizing our presence, reducing our footprint, and otherwise restraining our interventions,' it is also 'realizing that this cannot be done without extreme intrusion using some of the most sophisticated technologies and managerial types of control'...[His] 'middle path' involves a set of principles to inform environmentalist policies and a spiritual consciousness that requires mindfulness, heartfulness, a respect for the wildness both within nature and within ourselves, and a willingness to accept our state of not fully knowing how to maintain our awareness of the deep mysteries that abide both inside and outside ourselves -- mysteries 'whose wildness is crucial to maintaining our own sense of well-being along with that of the world.'

(Tikkun Magazine)

About the Author

Paul Wapner is Professor of Global Environmental Politics in the School of International Service at American University. He is the author of Environmental Activism and World Civic Politics, winner of the 1997 Harold and Margaret Sprout Award for the best book on international environmental affairs.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (February 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262014157
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262014151
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,285,995 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Wapner is Professor of Global Environmental Politics in the School of International Service at American University. His books include, "Living through the End of Nature: The Future of American Environmentalism," "Environmental Activism and World Civic Politics," "Principled World Politics: The Challenge of Normative International Relations," and, most recently, "Global Environmental Politics: From Person to Planet" (co-edited with Simon Nicholson). His recent work focuses on contemplative environmentalism--exploring the interface between environmental challenges and our inner lives. He lives in Takoma Park, MD, with his wife, Diane, and children, Eliza and Zeke.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Paul Corrigan on December 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
LIVING THROUGH THE END OF NATURE is profound, insightful, readable, moving, and--dare I say--wise.

I hope that Wapner will become a major influence for theorists, practitioners, and politicians. He has important things to say to those who think about and engage with the environment and environmental politics. The "future of American environmentalism" is Wapner's vision for the future, not a prediction.

We are faced with new and complex environmental realities. While politically expedient, the old answers (whether environmentalist or anti-environmentalist) won't help us move forward. Modeling what he preaches, Wapner argues that we need to embrace complexity in our dealings with the earth and, in politics, with each other.

Building on the best of recent work in environmentalism (especially Bill McKibben), Wapner gives an overview of the profound empirical and conceptual changes that have already occurred in "nature." I.e., there is no place on the planet that has not already been impacted by human activity. And there is no single objective meaning to nature. Humans are and henceforward will always be taking part in whatever nature is and/or means. This much, as Wapner explains, has already been established. So, his question is, what now? How do we move forward?

Wapner lays out two extreme views that might--but don't--provide the answer: (1) "the dream of naturalism" held by many environmentalists says if only we can leave nature alone, things will be well; (2) the dream of mastery held by many skeptics of environmentalism says if only we can control nature, things will be well.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By treysea on April 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book answered so many of my questions about the environmental movement, environmental skepticism, and our environmental future. Don't let the dark title scare you from reading it. I think this book is unique in it's realism and practically and reasonable approach to the environmental future that lies ahead. This text will play a major role in my continually evolving environmental views. It's not a pro- or anti- environmental text; rather it's a pragmatic view of the situation that we're in and how we can understand the thinking that brought us to the very polarized issue of "environmentalism" and how we can change our thinking (and therefore politics) going forward to create a world that works towards well-being for everyone and everything. Well done, Paul Wapner!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brian Griffith on September 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Wapner makes a good, helpful argument: Stop trying to keep nature and humanity in separate but competing compartments, because we already co-exist in every compartment. Instead, figure out how to co-exist in a more mutually beneficial way. The argument could be made more briefly and simply, but Wapner must deal with the complexities of passionate positions of environmentalists past and present. He must show that he understands their arguments, so he briefly recaps the discourses of nature protectionists, be they dark green, light green, or brown. He even shows real understanding for advocates of technological mastery over nature. The aim is to harmonize all insights into a greater, more subtle, less ideological quest for a better shared future.

The book is done to reconcile differences in North America's environmental movement. It's a movemental insider's talking paper, not a popular-appeal book. It could use more examples and fewer well-crafted articulations of theory. But maybe this is the kind of book that makes a real difference for those most involved.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Andreas on October 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a book that is much needed at this critical juncture in environmental politics. I couldn't agree with Wapner more. We have to move past the ideas of boundaries, limits, and sacrifice and move into a world of building living relationships with the environment as a whole, with each other, and with ourselves.

In order to get others to join in this effort we have to move away from doom and gloom and focus on opportunity. The opportunity to build a thriving relationship that integrates nature and humanity and celebrates the wildness in it all including ourselves. Getting others to join aside, having a hopeful outlook on a new, ambiguous, and progressive way forward, I feel is a better place to act from as an environmentalist rather than feeling overwhelmed and cynical based on our past approaches. As Wapner shows, the past idea of setting up a "do not enter sign" just isn't working for wilderness or climate, and we have to be open to moving past that now.

Fantastic, I loved it. Great job!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Macauley on January 21, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Enriching and engaging book. Some parts were heavy with jargon so much so that I didn't even know what he was talking about but the ideas that Wapner discusses facilitated to my contribution of what is happening in the world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robena D. Robinett on August 26, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Here is another book to put where students can read it. The discussions allow students to gain a broader understanding of the push to be more environmentally aware.
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