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The War Against the Greens: The "Wise-Use" Movement, the New Right, and the Browning of America Paperback – May, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 386 pages
  • Publisher: Johnson Books; Rev Upd edition (May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555663281
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555663285
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,618,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Helvarg is President of the Blue Frontier Campaign ( and the author of six books, Blue Frontier, The War Against the Greens, 50 Ways to Save the Ocean, Rescue Warriors, Saved by the Sea and The Golden Shore. He's editor of the Ocean and Coastal Conservation Guide, organizer of 'Blue Vision' Summits for ocean activists and the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards, the world's top marine conservation prize. He's winner of Coastal Living Magazine's 2005 Leadership Award and the 2007 Herman Melville literary Award. Helvarg worked as a war correspondent in Northern Ireland and Central America, covered a range of issues from military science to the AIDS epidemic, and reported from every continent including Antarctica. An award-winning journalist, he produced more than 40 broadcast documentaries for PBS, The Discovery Channel, and others. His print work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, LA Times, Smithsonian, Popular Science, Sierra and Parade. He's done radio work for Marketplace, AP radio, and Pacifica. He's led workshops for journalists in Poland, Turkey, Tunisia, Slovakia and Washington DC. He is a licensed Private Investigator, body-surfer and scuba diver.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on December 3, 2004
Format: Paperback
As a conservationist myself, I found this book rather frustrating. There is compelling subject matter but poor results. On the good side, Helvarg's investigation into the Wise Use and Property Rights movements reveals that these people are hardly acting in their own long-term interests, but instead are enslaved by unyielding hard-right ideologies. Also, this so-called "grass roots" movement actually enjoys vast funding and legal support from polluting industries and political heavies. Therefore this relatively small group of ideologues has an unfair advantage over real grass roots conservation activists, and has a hugely disproportional amount of clout on political processes and media rhetoric when it comes to environmental issues. This look into the political realities behind the movement is the most valuable aspect of this book.

Unfortunately, even as a conservationist I was ultimately unsatisfied with the book, due to Helvarg's conspiratorial and fear-mongering writing style. His credibility is damaged by inflammatory language and character assassinations. Helvarg's stories of Wise Use adherents harassing, injuring, and even killing environmentalists are shocking and saddening, but unfortunately I must conclude that he has not proven that this isn't just a few bad apples, rather than an actual movement strategy. And finally, much of this book is outdated. The original text was written back in the early 1990s when the political environment was quite different. And even though the front cover says "revised and updated," Helvarg has merely added the obligatory final chapter on current developments, plus occasional transitional paragraphs and sentences in the original text that merely function as uninformative follow-ups. That makes this book an interesting period piece, but it has few ideas or solutions on how its issues apply to the current scene. [~doomsdayer520~]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Arthur Digbee VINE VOICE on November 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
In this book, journalist David Helvarg tells the story of the Wise Use Movement (WUM), one of the periodic protest movements that springs up in the American West. The WUM was a loose confederation of anti-environmental groups, linking local groups concerned about jobs in their communities with national corporations in the mining and logging industries.

The book is a good read, though longer than it needs to be. It reflects Helvarg's liberalism and environmentalism that tinge his interpretations. For example, he'll take gratuitous swipes at the Reagan administration, or make irrelevant comments about abortion rights.

More important, Helvarg tends sometimes toward conspiracy theories that overemphasize the role of corporate interests. As a result, he doesn't always giving credit to the real grassroots elements of the WUM, nor these locals' decisions to build an alliance with national corporations as a way to fund their own agendas. (Some of those corporations have hijacked some of these groups, of course.) But in some cases, such as Bill Grannell and People for the West, Helvarg provides a fair-minded summary of the group - - helped, no doubt, by Grannell's family history of labor organizers and his own history as a Democratic politician in Oregon.

Despite the bias, Helvarg tells some important stories here. He documents anti-environmentalist violence, up to and including murder. He shows the unwillingness of the FBI to investigate these crimes or any interstate conspiracy behind them, even as the same agency pursued less-violent eco-terrorists who spiked trees and engaged in other monkeywrenching.

The book was published in 1994, so it has some time capsule qualities to it for the modern reader. I haven't found any better book on the WUM, though the movement continues to attract some scholarly articles.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stuart R Johnson on July 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
Helvarg has provided the clearest description available of how the various environmental disinformation agencies were established by corporations to "ATTACK" the efforts of individuals and organizations that defend the environment. On page 308 we read:
"In 1971 the US Chamber of Commerce hired attorney and future Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell to advise it on how to counter environmental and consumer activists. He recommended the formation of a business-sponsored legal center that would not hesitate to 'attack the [Ralph] Naders . . . and others who openly seek destruction of the system.' In 1973 the Pacific Legal Foundation, the first of a chain of business-sponsored 'public interest' law firms, was established in Sacramento, California." This chapter needs to be studied by students and the general public who are not aware of the amount of money corporations put into suppressing environmental protection, money that is channeled through foundations that operate on tax-exempt funds, exempt because they supposedly serve the public interest. More business destruction of our society and the biosphere on which it depends. Read this book and cry scandal!
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11 of 19 people found the following review helpful By J.W.K on January 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
Antitoxics activist Paula Siemers remembers the night two men attacked and knifed her on a Cincinnati street near her home, following earlier incidents of harassment in which she'd been stoned and her house set on fire.... "After they cut my throat they poured water in it from the river and said, 'Now you'll have something to sue about,'" says Stephanie McGuire, an activist who was raped and tortured by three men in camouflage after she protested water pollution on the Fenholloway River.... "We think it was murder," says a friend of Leroy Jackson, a Native American environmentalist whose body was found by the side a New Mexico highway several days before he was scheduled to fly to Washington to testify against clear-cut logging on the Navajo reservation... . "I was driving home from a concert and saw a glow in the mist. By the time I got to my house a mile and a half in from the highway it was burned to the ground," recalls Greenpeace USA's toxics coordinator Pat Costner of the arson fire that destroyed her home.... "We were told if we killed any of them there was $40,000 that was there to defend us in court or to help us get away," says Ed Knight, an ex-logger and Hell's Angel describing how he was hired to lie in ambush with an Uzi, waiting to shoot Earth Firsters in the California woods.... On and on the stories go, told in crystal clear prose, documented with footnotes abundant, by this veteran journalist and private investigator, David Helvarg. Had I come across this book before reading "Toxic Sludge is Good for You" and "Trust Us, We're Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles With Your Future," the stories might have sounded far-fetched. However, the vast accumulation of evidence of corporate violence against environmentalists and ordinary citizens alike is now beyond dispute - and sickening. This bafflingly unavailable book is ESSENTIAL READING for anyone attempting to understand the environmental movement and its unique challenges.

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