Drawing a case study from the Pacific Northwest, where he makes his home, noted environmental journalist Richard Manning argues that long-practiced conservation strategies are not enough to protect wild lands, and that little can come from calling for more wilderness preservation when the lands beyond the wilderness are so ill used. "The fundamental problem," he writes, "is in the scale and nature of human development; rethinking our definition of wilderness seems an academic exercise in the face of real pollution, sprawl, mindlessness, and greed." That development, he continues, involves imposing an industrial model on the world's ecosystems, so that, in the case of the Northwest, rivers have been seen as factories that make fish and electricity, forests as factories that make timber, and mountains as factories that make ore. That model is not only incorrect, he says, but also dangerously misguided.
In a journalistic tour of the region, Manning makes a convincing argument for removing dams on sensitive waterways; looks into the alarmingly high hidden costs of salmon and shrimp farming; condemns the suburbanization of the mountain West in the face of "white flight" from California; and looks into the lumbering practice called clear-cutting, which, though pioneered in the 1950s (by the U.S. Forest Service), was not put into general practice until the late 1970s. Manning's notions that it is possible to foster an economy of "conservation-based development" and that "wilderness has outlived its usefulness" will doubtless provoke controversy in green circles, while his call to reduce consumption and treat habitats of all kinds with more care won't play well in certain boardrooms--all of which means that, in his role as gadfly, Manning has done his job. --Gregory McNamee
From Library Journal
The idea of wilderness conjures up lines or boundaries on a map, separating developed areas from those free of humanity's handiwork. It is an idea debated by environmentalists and politicians. Journalist Manning (Food's Frontier) argues for a new understanding: wilderness without borders. Calling for a rethinking of humanity's relationship with nature, he argues that nature is bigger than all of humankind and cannot be controlled. From Alaska to Puget Sound, traveling by plane, boat, and kayak and on foot, Manning interviewed people who live and work in the Pacific Northwest region known as the Inside Passage to explore the ties between a regional economy and ecology. Using his own keen observation, Manning pleads for a new understanding of conservation and economic development together, not as separate entities. This thought-provoking book is a welcome addition to the environmental bookshelf.DPatricia Ann Owens, Wabash Valley Coll., Mt. Carmel, IL
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