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Living Through the End of Nature: The Future of American Environmentalism

by Paul Wapner The MIT Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 272 pages
AU$44.99 NZ$47.82
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Environmentalists have always worked to protect the wildness of nature but now mustfind a new direction. We have so tamed, colonized, and contaminated the natural world thatsafeguarding it from humans is no longer an option. Humanity's imprint is now everywhere and allefforts to 'preserve' nature require extensive human intervention. At the same time, weare repeatedly told that there is no such thing as nature itself -- only our own conceptions of it.One person's endangered species is another's dinner or source of income. In Living Through the End of Nature, Paul Wapner probes the meaning of environmentalism in a postnature age.

Wapner argues that we can neither go back to a preindustrial Elysium nor forwardto a technological utopia. He proposes a third way that takes seriously the breached boundarybetween humans and nature and charts a co-evolutionary path in which environmentalists exploit thetension between naturalism and mastery to build a more sustainable, ecologically vibrant, andsocially just world. Beautifully written and thoughtfully argued, Living Through the End of Nature provides a powerful vision for environmentalism'sfuture

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
Paul Wapner is Professor of Global Environmental Politics in the School of InternationalService 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 environmentalaffairs.