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The Age of Ecology

The Age of Ecology

Joachim Radkau

ISBN: 978-0-745-67999-0 April 2014 Polity 600 Pages




This book is the first major study of the history of environmentalism, from its origins in romanticism and the nature cults of the late 18th century to the global environmental movements of today.

Radkau shows that this is not a single story of the steady ascent of environmentalism but rather a multiplicity of stories, each with its own dramatic tension: between single-issue movements and the challenges posed by the interconnection of environmental issues, between charismatic leaders and bureaucratic organizations, and between grassroot movements and global players. While the history can be traced back several centuries, environmentalism has flourished since the ‘environmental revolution’ of 1970, spurred on by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 and the growing concern about global warming. While environmentalists often opposed the scientific mainstream, they were also often led by scientific knowledge. Environmentalism is the true Enlightenment of our time Ð so much so that we can call our era ‘the age of ecology’.

This timely and comprehensive global history of environmentalism will be essential reading for anyone concerned with the most pressing global issues of our time.

Preface to the English Edition vii

Acknowledgements xiv

Introduction: The Green Chameleon 1

One Environmentalism before the Environmental Movement 11

1 Good Mother Nature and the ‘Appalling Wood Shortage’: The Twin Face of Nature in the Decline of the Commons 11

2 Nature in Need of Protection and Nature as Healing Power: Environmental Activism in the ‘Nervous Age’ 24

3 ‘The Desert Threatens’: Environmental Fears in the Age of Crisis – the New Deal and Nazi Germany 46

4 Think Big! A Charismatic Intermezzo on the Olympian Heights 61

Two The Great Chain Reaction: The ‘Ecological Revolution’ in and around 1970 79

Three Networked Thinking and Practical Priorities: An Endless Interplay 114

1 On the Ecology of Ecologism 121

2 Water and the Atom 137

3 Changing Priorities: The Movement in Motion 162

Four Charismatics and Ecocrats 182

1 Spiritual Quest and Charismatic Moments 182

2 Ten Heroines Embodying Tensions in the Movement 201

3 Institutionalization, Routinization, Revitalization 237

Five A Friend–Enemy or Win-Win Scenario? 259

1 From Nuclear Power to the Spotted Owl 259

2 Violence and the Green Conscience 288

3 Ecology and Economics: The Challenge of Conceptual Analogy 320

Six Ecology and the Historic Turn of 1990: From Social Justice to Climate Justice? 339

Conclusion: The Dialectic of Green Enlightenment 425

Notes 432

Index 517

"Radkau's new book is by far the finest informative read available on the environmental movement in its many diverse varieties from its modern beginnings until now, and the women and men whose passions inspired it. Protests and politics, activism and reaction, love of nature and hatred of pollution – all are shown with a clarity that makes sense to the reader. This is the compelling global story of the most distinctive popular movement of our age, the Age of Ecology."
J. Donald Hughes, University of Denver

"With his customary synoptic vision and idiosyncratic eye for telling detail, Radkau offers a revealing tableau of the multiple histories of modern environmentalism in Europe, in America, and around the world. The Age of Ecology is the most thought-provoking and wide-ranging book yet on its subject."
J. R. McNeill, Georgetown University

"A comprehensive and compelling global history of environmental movements.'
Die Zeit

"An authoritative global history of ecology."
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

"Brilliant - by far the best account of the global environmental movement ... A great achievement."
Deutschlandradio Kultur