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Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century Paperback – August 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (August 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262540843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262540841
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In this timely book, award-winning journalist Dowie analyzes why the once-effective environmental movement now appears, even under an ostensibly friendly Democratic administration, increasingly powerless and irrelevant. The bulk of his text details the tendencies and practices that Dowie identifies as leading to the current crisis: dependence for success on mass mailings and professional lobbyists; neglect of grass-roots activism; failure to involve minorities; excessive willingness to compromise; naive belief in the good faith of government agencies and corporate boards; and a general lack of audacity and zeal. The important closing chapters discuss various emerging groups and philosophies that could contribute to a "fourth wave" environmental movement. This thought-provoking book joins Philip Shabecoff's A Fierce Green Fire (Hill & Wang: Farrar, 1993) and Kirkpatrick Sale's The Green Revolution (LJ 7/93) in both interpreting the history of environmentalism and assessing its future. While not one of these books is definitive, each has special strengths. Dowie excels in the treatment of events and trends since 1989. Recommended for academic libraries and environmental collections.
Joan S. Elbers, formerly with Montgomery Coll., Rockville, Md.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Dowie is an award-winning journalist with a penchant for radical inquiry. He has tackled the American environmental movement out of frustration, believing that it should have accomplished much more than it has. Why environmentalism has failed to live up to its potential occupies much of Dowie's rigorous analysis. He begins with a scathing history of the movement's first stirrings, an effort by well-heeled, elitist white men to maintain wilderness areas for recreational purposes. The next phase pitted conservationists interested in "wise use" against the more prescient preservationists. Dowie tracks the rapid devolution of "wise use" into abuse during the Reagan years and the foolish fallback tactics of the green movement, which bureaucratized itself into little more than a direct-mail machine. As critical as Dowie is, he does see hope in the next phase of this phoenixlike movement. He believes that a genuinely democratic form of environmentalism--linked to civil rights, focused on urban as well as rural environmental issues, and involving women and men of all races and cultures--is possible and promising. Let's hope so. Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 5, 1996
Format: Paperback
Perhaps the greatest weakness of individual environmentalists and the
environmental "movement" is the absence of public self-examination. While
political insiders may clearly see the difference between the National Wildlife
Federation and the Sierra Club, the public has few resources to gauge them.
Opening the doors is author Mark Dowie, a champion of local activism and the
integration of environmental issues with other social movements. Tracing the
origins and bureaucratization of the environmental movement, Dowie criticizes
the most recent surge of co-option, the "third wave" or economics-based
environmentalism.

"Regulatory flexibility and 'constructive engagement' with
industry have created some business heroes, but they can be counted on one
hand," he writes. "The rest, unfortunately, need to be regulated." This is not to
say this book is a rant against environmental business. There are no heroes or
villains in this book, which makes it a rarity in the environmental lexicon.
Instead, Dowie criticizes the corporate structure of environmental groups, and
portrays each organization with their individual merits and flaws. Compromising
Local Leadership Dowie reminds readers of the decision by the Natural
Resources Defense Council and Cultural Survival to negotiate with the
Ecuadorian government over oil drilling in the Yasuni Reserve.
Read more ›
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By sbissell3 on November 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
Although this book is now 7 years old, it seems more relevant today than when Dowie wrote it. I keep hoping for a new, revised, edition. The elections of 2000 and 2002 have shown that the mainstream environmental organizations in the U.S. have lost most of their strength in the political arena. Despite major attempts to influence elections. . .the Senatorial race in Colorado for example. . .their efforts were either not effective or salient to the electorate. The Green Party seems to have filtered off those voters who are primarily concerned with environmental issues and most indications are that those voters are not impressed with the mainstream environmental establishment in the U.S. The Green Parties of Europe seem to be making a resurgence, but progress in the U.S. is not evident.
Dowie's main critique is of the established, major environmental organizations; those groups who enjoyed so much growth during the Reagan era as a reaction to James Watt and others in the Reagan Cabinet. While Gale Norton is from the same mold as Watt, and Christy Todd Whitman is not far removed, they do not seem to be provoking the same degree of unrest among America's electorate. Arguable the Administration of George "5-4" W. Bush is even worse than Reagan Administration in Environmental Policy, and seem to be drifting even further since the 2002 elections. However the major environmental organizations do not seem to be able to focus attention, or perhaps interest, on this issue. The reason for that may be changing social and cultural norms, but it also may be due to the perception that these organizations are not relevant.
Dowie's book may be a bit out-of-date, but it is well worth the read. I think Dowie was right in 1995 and his ideas still ring true today.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 5, 1996
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps the greatest weakness of individual
environmentalists and the environmental "movement" is the absence
of public self-examination. While political insiders may clearly
see the difference between the National Wildlife Federation and
the Sierra Club, the public has few resources to gauge them.
Opening the doors is author Mark Dowie, a champion of local
activism and the integration of environmental issues with other
social movements.
Tracing the origins and bureaucratization of the
environmental movement, Dowie criticizes the most recent surge of
co-option, the "third wave" or economics-based environmentalism.
"Regulatory flexibility and 'constructive engagement' with
industry have created some business heroes, but they can be
counted on one hand," he writes. "The rest, unfortunately, need
to be regulated."
This is not to say this book is a rant against environmental
business. There are no heroes or villains in this book, which
makes it a rarity in the environmental lexicon. Instead, Dowie
criticizes the corporate structure of environmental groups, and
portrays each organization with their individual merits and
flaws.

Compromising Local Leadership
Dowie reminds readers of the decision by the Natural
Resources Defense Council and Cultural Survival to negotiate with
the Ecuadorian government over oil drilling in the Yasuni
Reserve.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

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