Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Environmental Moment

Environmental History has a review by Gary Kroll of The Environmental Moment, 1968–1972, a collection of primary-source documents edited by David Stradling (U Washington Press, 2012). The book contains a number of classic legal sources, including the National Environmental Policy Act and Justice Douglas's iconic dissent in Sierra Club v. Morton ("Mineral King"), in which he argued for granting standing to inanimate natural objects, as well as "voices—Reagan, Joseph Ling, and John Maddox—of those who opposed or criticized the costs of new forms of regulation."

Kroll writes:
The central purpose of this collection is to capture that heady period of protest and response between 1968 and 1972, but Stradling sends out tendrils both fore and aft and all the while directs us to interpretive themes that have emerged from the social turn in environmental historiography.
He sums up:
By and large, Stradling has given me something that is hard to resist.
But another thought occurred to me while staring at the reproduction of the Whole Earth Catalog's 1969 moonrise cover (p. 42). It just looked … small, and then I remembered all the times I have lugged massive bound catalogs from the library to my classes, and I thought of how students get a kick out of the various advertisements, the technology, and composting toilets. And this reminded me of my frequent sprints to retrieve a DVD copy of Soylent Green because my VHS copy has worn thin. And then I thought of how disappointed I always am to use the grainy YouTube video of the “Iron Eyes Cody” advertisement for “Keep America Beautiful.” And the amount of money I have spent on digital music that I routinely hook up to the sound system. This stream of consciousness happened with Stradling's little volume in my hands, and then I felt, and this is no fault of his, a little let down. Not because the book doesn't deliver on its promise. Rather, it would be helpful for US environmental historians to have an easily available repository of music, images, movie clips, artifacts, and classic texts to enrich our classes. We have bits and pieces scattered throughout the digital universe, but it would be nice to bring it all together, perhaps as an American Society for Environmental History project. Until then, I am happy to have my students peruse The Environmental Movement.

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