"You and I are not people who live in communion with the earth," Chellis Glendinning begins. "We exist instead dislocated from our roots by the psychological, philosophical, and technological constructions of our civilization, and this alienation leads to our suffering: massive suffering for each and every one of us, and mass suffering throughout our society."
Whether you believe the full ramifications of Glendinning's connections between addictive behavior and the ecological crisis depends entirely on whether you accept the premise that one can be "addicted" to civilization. But her call for a return to a nature-based culture, one in which people live "as if [we] were responsible for building the culture that the rocks and trees and birds of this place expected of human beings," is a compelling proposal, elaborated from the heart.
This brilliant, offbeat, and ultimately provocative book is nothing short of revolutionary. Its title, of course, is off-putting; indeed, the concept of recovering from Western civilization sounds rather arrogant. But Glendinning hits the nail on the head, making the connection between the recovery movement and the environmental movement so well that their concurrent emergence makes sense. She digs into the aspects of Western civilization we desperately need to recover from--our technological addictions, fast pace, daily and lifelong traumas, dissociation from the natural world and ourselves--and ably shows why the way of life they constitute is so unhealthy. She uses examples from nature-based cultures to show how to reconnect with the world, and by probing into her own as well as our collective psyche, she courageously takes the leap toward emotional, spiritual, and physical health that she invites the rest of us to follow. Mary Ellen Sullivan