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

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Overview

"Environmentalists have always worked to protect the wildness of nature but now must find a new direction. We have so tamed, colonized, and contaminated the natural world that safeguarding it from humans is no longer an option. Humanity's imprint is now every where and all efforts to "preserve" nature require extensive human intervention. At the same time, we are 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 the end of nature represents not environmentalism's death knell but an opportunity to build a more effective political movement. He outlines the polarized positions of environmentalists, who strive to live in harmony with nature, and their opponents, who seek mastery over nature. Wapner argues that, without nature, neither of these two outlooks - the "dream of naturalism" or the "dream of mastery" - can be sustained today. Neither is appropriate for addressing such problems as biodiversity loss and climate change; we can neither go back to a preindustrial Elysium nor forward to a technological utopia. Instead, he proposes a third way that takes seriously the breached boundary between humans and nature and charts a co-evolutionary path in which environmentalists exploit the tension between naturalism and mastery to build a more sustainable, ecologically vibrant, and socially just world.

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What People Are Saying

Peter Dauvergne

"Wapner is one of the world's leading scholars of environmental politics and his latest book, Living Through the End of Nature, is a sophisticated exploration of the future of the environmental movement. If you dream of a better tomorrow, Wapner's book will lead the way."--Peter Dauvergne, Professor of Political Science and Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Politics, University of British Columbia, author of Shadows of Consumption

William McDonough

"Design is the first signal of human intention. Given the state of the world today, it is clear: nature doesn't have a design problem, people do. As the 'dominant' species our design question now encompasses the entire world and takes us to the essential places of human intention and natural experience and their interdependence. Paul Wapner, with this book, takes us on a richly informed exploration of these essential places so that we may divine a path forward worthy of our promise as a species. For me, as a designer, the fundamental design question remains: 'How do we love all the children of all species for all time?'"--William McDonough, author of Cradle to Cradle

Bill McKibben

"These are important ideas about what nature means, and what it doesn't mean--it's a strong voice in an intellectual argument that needs to continue, because it bears very heavily on the practical choices we now face."--Bill McKibben, author of Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

Mark Dowie

"Anyone who grapples with the slippery semantics of 'nature' is practicing a form of intellectual bravery few of us seem willing to endure. And for good reason. As we discover in Paul Wapner's deep and poignant treatment of the subject, there is no easy resting place between an environmentalist's love of nature and his mastery of it." --Mark Dowie, author of Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century (MIT Press)

Bill McKibben
"These are important ideas about what nature means, and what it doesn't mean—it's a strong voice in an intellectual argument that needs to continue, because it bears very heavily on the practical choices we now face."—Bill McKibben, author of Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
Mark Dowie
"Anyone who grapples with the slippery semantics of 'nature' is practicing a form of intellectual bravery few of us seem willing to endure. And for good reason. As we discover in Paul Wapner's deep and poignant treatment of the subject, there is no easy resting place between an environmentalist's love of nature and his mastery of it." —Mark Dowie, author of LosingGround: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century (MIT Press)
Peter Dauvergne
"Wapner is one of the world's leading scholars of environmental politics and his latest book, Living Through the End of Nature, is a sophisticated exploration of the future of the environmental movement. If you dream of a better tomorrow, Wapner's book will lead the way."—PeterDauvergne, Professor of Political Science and Canada Research Chair in Global EnvironmentalPolitics, University of British Columbia, author of Shadows of Consumption
William McDonough
"Design is the first signal of human intention. Given the state of the world today, it is clear: nature doesn't have a design problem, people do. As the 'dominant' species our design question now encompasses the entire world and takes us to the essential places of human intention and natural experience and their interdependence. Paul Wapner, with this book, takes us on a richly informed exploration of these essential places so that we may divine a path forward worthy of our promise as a species. For me, as a designer, the fundamental design question remains: 'How do we love all the children of all species for all time?'"—William McDonough, author of Cradle toCradle
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262014151
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2010
  • Pages: 252
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

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 environmental affairs.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1

2 American environmentalism and boundaries 35

3 The dream of naturalism 53

4 The dream of mastery 79

5 The great vanishing : into the postnature world 107

6 The nature of wilderness 133

7 The nature of climate change 169

8 Being an environmentalist : decisive uncertainty and the future of American environmentalism 201

Notes 221

References 237

Index 249

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