Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Risk Society

Title: Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity (London: Sage Publications, trans. Mark Ritter, 1992; orig. published in German in 1986)

Ulrich Beck, German sociologist, who holds positions at the University of Munich and the London School of Economics. His works revolve around globalization, ecology, individualization, and the changing nature of work. Among his other recent books are The Normal Chaos of Love (1995, written with his wife!); Ecological Politics in an Age of Risk (1995); The Reinvention of Politics: Rethinking Modernity in the Global Social Order (1996); Power in the Global Age (2005); and Cosmopolitan Vision (2006).

Review: Beck's "Risk Society" is a post-industrial order in which the logic of wealth will give way to the logic of risk: in other words, he who has the most toys does not win; rather, he who can best evade the dangerous consequences of everybody's toys is the winner. The unfortunate part is that complete evasion may be impossible, meaning that everybody is at risk from everybody else's modernizations. Modernity, Beck argues, has perpetrated supposedly unforeseen "side effects": many of his examples are ecological, such as radioactivity, pollution, environmental illness, etc. In these cases, the logic of progress, which called for technological advancement without thinking of the price, has created regression and danger of unforeseen types. Traditional structures of knowledge - government; science, as currently practiced - are insufficient to contain these dangers.

Beck calls for an increase in what he calls "reflexive modernization" - a phase of modernity in which science and technology will become constantly self-critical and self-regulating. He calls the state of mind which has allowed science and technology to operate without checks an example of "counter-modernity" - those who believe in sci/tech in a religious way are undermining the principles of open reflection and assessment upon which modernity should be founded.

Additionally, Beck analyzes the style of individualization which he sees coming about in a post-industrial society. Work, he argues, now requires people to be flexible and single. It also extends these requirements to both genders. Industrial society required that women remain in the household, so that men could work, but this was in and of itself anti-modern. Now that women have learned to demand equal personhood and prerogative, nobody knows how to handle the resulting conflicts within marriages. This riff on individualism seems a bit disconnected from the information on risk.

Julianne Moore as a San Fernando Valley housewife afflicted by environmental illness in the totally terrifying "Safe" (1995).

As for potential holes that could be poked, were one to be in a poking mood, many of Beck's conclusions, especially in the section on gender relationships and in his thinking on work, seem to apply mainly or mostly to European/American/Western society - and society of a certain economic class, at that. Beck would argue that the new politics of risk means that class will no longer matter, because risk will be spread over all human bodies. But his argument already kind of eats itself, because, as he writes, those with more money and education will do better at managing risks - will know what kinds of food not to eat, will be able to buy bottled water, live further away from chemical threats, etc. I can buy the idea that the threat will spread over a wider range of social class, but not that it will threaten all equally.

As for his thesis about individualization and how it is affecting gender relationships, I would argue that there are many, many societies in which women have not been able to perceive individualization as their due. This is still a Western phenomenon, and an affluent one, at that. Thus, the seismic changes Beck points to seem only to be seismic for certain sectors. Is he assuming that as goes Germany and the United States, so goes the world?

Photograph of four-year-old with lymph system severely affected by fallout from Chernobyl. Taken by Paul Fusco.

Other books I've read which use this theory: None I've read so far; I know some upcoming ones will, though.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Darwinism Comes to America

Title: Darwinism Comes to America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998)

Author: Ronald Numbers, of the history of medicine and bioethics department at UW-Madison. Numbers has written many books about religion and science in America (and has been the president of both the American Society of Church History and the History of Science Society). His books include Prophetess of Health: A Study of Ellen G. White (1976); Medicine Without Doctors: Home Health Care in American History (1977); Almost Persuaded: American Physicians and Compulsory Health Insurance, 1912-1920 (1978) (that's an interesting one - I wonder how/if Spencerian ideas of "survival of the fittest" worked there); The Creationists (1992); Disseminating Darwinism: The Role of Place, Race, Religion, and Gender (1999); and most recently, When Science and Christianity Meet (2003). His site says he's working on a bio of John Harvey Kellogg, among other things.

My review: This book consists of a series of essays, many derived from conference presentations or articles, some co-authored. Numbers begins the book with an introduction of the terms, describing the evolution (sorry) of "Darwinism, creationism, and intelligent design" as concepts. Here he tries to restore some of the nuance to the spectrum of beliefs about evolution: some creationists believe(d) in the long-day theory (the idea that Genesis' "week" referred to eras, not days as we know them); some believe(d) in "natural" evolution punctuated by divine interventions, etc. (Interestingly, this chapter also addresses the impact of Sputnik on teachings of evolution.)

The next chapters seek to illuminate different aspects of the controversy, including whether or not Southern scientists reacted completely negatively to the theory (no, sir - this section recalls Marsden's arguments about the variety of religious opinion during this time period, including the point that fundamentalism originated in many cases in the urban North); how "creationism" has changed since its use by Louis Agassiz; how the Scopes trial got re-cast in the eyes of history as a victory for urban values and secular society (this chapter would be a good one to use to introduce the trial in an undergrad context); and how Adventists and Holiness sects responded to the theory. The Adventist chapter included some interesting material on how Ellen G. White may or may not have associated "lower" races with animals in her understanding of what happened during and after the Flood (p 99). Adventists saw some sciences as having been derived from satanic delusions - but believed that it was possible to know (or at least, for some people, like White, to know) which ones were satanic and which were okay.

Reviews of others:
In The Journal of Southern History, Steve Wolfgang welcomed the chapter on southern reception of Darwin (to be expected, given the rehabilitative nature of the work) and called the book a good introduction for students unaware of many aspects of Darwinism (an assessment echoed by David Hull of Northwestern, who wrote one of the blurbs for the back of the book). Kary Smout, in Isis, begged to differ, writing that the essays in this book would be difficult for non-specialists (I think I might have to agree) because many of them are based on Numbers' responses to a large body of scholarship, a setting-straight of a body of knowledge. (It's no fun to read a setting-straight when you have no idea what was crooked.) She wished that Numbers had seen fit to make broader conclusions: "Although I learned many fascinating facts from this book, all I learned was many fascinating facts. Since Darwinism has come to America, the result has been varied and complex. What hasn't?"

Vocab words:
"prosopographical" ("a study of a collection of persons or characters, esp. their appearances, careers, personalities, etc., within a historical, literary, or social context").

Books to follow up on: Primary: Frederick Lewis Allen, Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s (1931); EP Ellyson, Is Man an Animal? (mid-1920s - anti-evolution book); Youth's Instructor - Adventist periodical for young people

Secondary: Jon Roberts, Darwinism and the Divine in America: Protestant Intellectuals and Organic Evolution, 1859-1900 (1988) (Numbers dedicated this book to "Jon Roberts, author of the best book on Darwinism in America" - I do believe he meant this book, which I think might have been advisable to read instead, or at least in addition to, Darwinism Comes To America).

The back matter of this book includes a series of biographical notes about each of the 80 naturalists in the National Academy of Sciences from 1863-1900.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Sexual Politics of Meat

I'm pretty sure this book did not mention the 1972 movie "Prime Cut", in which Lee Marvin finds Sissy Spacek naked, in a pen full of hay, in a barn, about to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. But it sure should have.

Title: The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory (New York: Continuum, 1990)

Carol J. Adams, who has a masters in divinity and an extensive career as an activist outside of her academic writings. She's not affiliated with an academic institution, so far as I can see, but guest-lectures at many, and seems to travel extensively, giving a slide show based on this book. Other books she's written include Help! My Child Stopped Eating Meat (2004); The Pornography of Meat (2004); and Living Among Meat Eaters (2003). Adams lives in Dallas, which is brave on many levels, considering her political commitments.

My review:
Adams hopes to make the point that the act of eating meat has been persistently gendered male, and that the inherent assumptions of meat-eating are similiar to the assumptions of woman-oppressing. What are these assumptions? Adams argues that the "sexual politics of meat" include "the idea[s] that the end justifies the means...the objectification of other beings is a natural part of life...and that violence can and should be masked" (24). Adams uses the concept of the "absent referent" to anchor the various implications of these assumptions or ideas. For her, the act of eating meat obscures the life of the actual animal, just as the acts of objectification or violence or misogyny obscure the life of the actual female. Both the woman and the animal are unimportant in the greater system of meaning constructed by the patriarchy. (For this reason, Adams advocates inserting a "[sic]" after any sentence in which an animal is called "it", just as we would after a sentence in which "he" is used as a universal pronoun.) (See chapter "The Rape of Animals, the Butchering of Women", p 50.)

Adams wants to restore what she sees as a lost history of associations between feminism and vegetarianism, arguing that first-wave feminist activists in the nineteenth and early twentieth century recognized the connections between their own struggles for political recognition and the choice to be vegetarian. She also uses a wide array of literary sources, including utopic novels such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland (1915; see Bryson entry); Upton Sinclair's The Jungle (1906); and children's lit such as Charlotte's Web (1952). She recounts anecdotes from her experience as a domestic violence counselor. She also uses images collected from advertisements and (very interestingly) from publications internal to the meat industry.

"Truck Accident" (2004), by artist Sue Coe, whose Dead Meat is a book of paintings and writings about slaughterhouses.

This book can be difficult for one who lies on the other side of the divide between meat-chewing and meat-eschewing. To her credit, Adams seems to know that the conversion to her "side" can be one that is so absolute as to be almost mystical. But there are moments in this book that feel disingenous, as when she cites a description of a snuff film but neglects to write that the film in question was not actually a snuff film at all (see Snopes.com's debunking of the matter - thanks to Nick for telling me that this was an urban legend and rescuing me from many nightmares); or when she suggests that the school shooters of the 1990s may have shot kids because they were hunters so they were "used to it". Not only that, but the book, I think, assumes too much when it comes to correlation vs. causation. Just because, historically, men have been given more meat to eat even when women require the protein for breast-feeding, does that mean that meat is inherently patriarchal? Did English laborers of the nineteenth century really participate in patriarchy by giving the male members of the family more meat to eat? Should they have tried to find a nice mix of quinoa and kale to serve up instead? Is my skepticism or pickiness about this book derived from some deep guilt about or ambivalence about my meat-eating, which will some day be unearthed in a flood of veganism? Only time will tell.

Reviews of others:
In Environmental Ethics, Deborah Slicer wrote that the book should have been written in clearer, easier-to-follow language (it didn't seem too bad to me!) and that Adams' analyses of race and class issues were unnecessarily truncated. (This is true - there was an interesting bit on Western imposition of meat diets on colonized cultures, but it was brief and undeveloped. There's plenty of room for further investigation in this area - and of the questions of diet imposition in general. The Inuit, for example, eat plenty of meat, but American and English explorers still found their diet disgusting.)

Apparently, in a later book Adams addresses the abhorrent PETA ad phenomenon.

Books to follow up on: Primary:
Henry Salt, ed., Killing for Sport: Essays by Various Writers (1914); the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children.

Linda Birke, Feminism, Animals and Science: The Naming of the Shrew (1994); Gena Corea, The Mother Machine: Reproductive Technologies from Artificial Insemination to Artificial Wombs (1985); Mary Douglas, "Deciphering a Meal", in Implicit Meanings: Essays in Anthropology (1975); Coral Lansbury, The Old Brown Dog: Women, Workers, and Vivisection in Edwardian England (1985); Carolyn Steedman, "Landscape for a Good Woman", in Truth, Dare or Promise: Girls Growing Up in the Fifties (1985).

Additionally, the book's bibliography is helpfully separated into subject areas, including "Vegetarian Writings", "Animal Concerns and Animal Defense", "Feminist Writings", "Sexual and Domestic Violence", "Literary Criticism", "History, Autobiography, Biography", "Fiction, Poetry, Drama", "Medical and Nutritional Writings", and "Other".

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Unsettling of America

Title: The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1977)

Wendell Berry, author of many books: novels, poetry, and essays. Also a longtime resident of northwestern Kentucky, farmer of 125 acres, former teacher of college creative writing, former Stegner Fellow.

My review:

This is a still from the recent documentary King Corn, which was co-made by/costars an alum from my high school, Ian Cheney. In this film, two city-raised kids who have old family roots in agricultural America try to return to Iowa, buy an acre of corn, and live the agdream. Of course, they end up on a tour through all of the technological boondoggles of contemporary monoculture. My favorite moment is when Ian tries to make high fructose corn syrup on his stove, and the process is so complicated that he almost can't do it. The number of friends I have who care a lot about farming (yet, interestingly, don't have farms themselves) is quite large (see, for example, Elanor Starmer's blog), and I am so implicated in this system of thought that reading a book like Unsettling almost felt like overkill. Plus, my conception of Berry's writing came completely from a couple of poems of his I had read and loved in high school, and which were kind of smushy in a latter-day Unitarian earth-love sort of way. (Here's one, "The Peace of Wild Things".)

Unsettling was much more of a jeremiad than I had ever expected, and addressed much deeper issues of National Character (or, more specifically, Modern Character) than I had thought. Berry's thought on technology (broadly defined) and its place in human endeavor goes beyond Luddism or antimodernism (although you could certainly slot him in there - he also really loves the Amish). For Berry, who employs what I would call a heavily Marxist mode of analysis, our "attitude toward work" has caused us to create a Frankensteinian system of technology and impersonal management methods, all designed to distance ourself from our own physical bodies.

As for the structure of the book, which Berry specifically cast as a response to what he saw as "modern or orthodox agriculture" (and remember, this was the 1970s, post-Earl Butz and Green Revolution...), Berry seems to get off with a bang, or three chapters which use the word "crisis" twice in their titles. Then there are more extended meditations on aspects of the crisis, including a chapter, "The Body and the Earth", which seeks to re-place the body in the ecological system and which follows a Carolyn Merchant-esque path in describing the tragic consequences of the divorce of body and soul.

Passages such as this startling one make his point, namely that technology is another method of alienation, leading to increasing enslavement of people and energy. Question: I see his point, but I find it objectionable to compare slavery and, say, modern irrigation systems. Is this direct equivalence, in itself, dehumanizing? Viz: "We have made it our overriding ambition to escape work, and as a consequence have debased work until it is only fit to escape from...Out of this contempt for work arose the idea of a n****r: at first some person, and later some thing, to be used to relieve us of the burden of work. If we began by making n****rs of people, we have ended by making a n****r of the world. We have taken the irreplaceable energies and materials of the world and turned them into jimcrack 'labor-saving devices'. We have made of the rivers and oceans and winds n****rs to carry away our refuse, which we think we are too good to dispose of decently ourselves. And in doing this to the world that is our common heritage and bond, we have returned to making n****rs of people: we have become each other's n****rs" (12).

Some other potentially objectionable facets of this argument - beyond the comparison between slaves and tractors - include Berry's lament on the divorce of sexuality from childbearing marriages, which he says has destroyed the fabric of community and devalued the sacred act of sex. Pretty heteronormative, and also fairly biologically determinist, which is interesting, because his call for technological limitation is kind of anti-evolutionary. If you think that humans should be fulfilling the family structures their biology "demands" of them, then you also have to accept the human drive for technological improvement and reduction of work. A family structure that reaches beyond the boundaries of the "traditional" procreative one is a creative reimagining of biology, just like Berry's ideal farming structure would be.

All of Berry's critiques stem from the concept of human limitation, which he argues is necessary for our own health, bodily and spiritually speaking. Human limitation, which might involve limiting technology used (a la the Amish) or production itself (a la all previous versions of agriculture before the Green Revolution) is, of course, not a particularly popular concept, with the dominant visions of technocratic elites focused on the "way forward". Because of this, Berry visualizes himself on the "margins" of contemporary agriculture, and maybe also contemporary society, but says that the "margins" are a totally necessary and fruitful contributor to societal planning. (Once again, I wonder why he can't, then, get with the idea of marginal families or family units.)

I believe my colleague Lisa Powell will be sending me her paper on the reception of this book, so that I can put more in this section. From what I remember of her work, it seemed that Unsettling was the catalyst of a new small-farming movement, and that many new organic/small/local farmers could trace their "awakening" to this book (or, at least, that was her thesis - but then the paper explored the difficulty of pinpointing the origins of a movement or following the influence of a text through said movement - see, for example, Abbey's Monkeywrench Gang and ELF...) More to come on that.

I found this picture of Wendell Berry attached to a fascinating document: a 1976 debate published on NASA's website, in which Berry responded to a contest held for students to plan space settlement colonies. There's a long debate between him and one of the responsible adults. Sample of Berry: "I think you have wandered into a trap - one that is crowded with so many glamorous captives that you think it is some kind of escape. The trap is that a technological 'solution' on the scale of this one is bound to create a whole set of new problems, ramifying ahead of foresight." (See also Markley's Dying Planet on the anti-environmentalism of space colonization.)

Things to follow up on:
The 1914 Smith-Lever act created the cooperative extension service. Was there a childhood education component at that point?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Shifting Gears

Charles Sheeler, "Ford Plant, River Rouge, Criss-Crossed Conveyors", 1927

Title: Shifting Gears: Technology, Literature, Culture in Modernist America (Chapel Hill: the UNC Press, 1987)

Cecelia Tichi, of the English department at Vanderbilt. Her other books are numerous and have a broad range of subject matter: Exposes and Excess: Muckraking in America, 1900/2000 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003); Embodiment of a Nation: Human Form in American Spaces (Harvard UP, 2001); Reading Country Music: Steel Guitars, Opry Stars, and Konky-Tonk Bars (Duke University Press, 1998) (did she mean "honky-tonk bars"? I bet so); High Lonesome: The American Culture of Country Music (University of North Carolina Press, 1994); Electronic Hearth: Creating an American Television Culture (Oxford University Press, 1991); and New World: New Earth: Environmental Reform in American Literature from the Puritans through Whitman (Yale UP, 1979). Apparently she's also written three novels! Cool.

Stuart Davis, Percolator, 1927

My review: Tichi writes that although some writers, artists, and poets took an antimodern stance regarding the technological advances of the 1880-1930 period (there's gotta be a better name for that fifty years!), others of their contemporaries embraced not only the subject matter of the machine age, but also its methods of composition, adopting what Tichi calls a "gear and girder" approach to art-making.

On the ground, this engineering-style approach reflected itself in more pared-down prose (Hemingway, who cited his apprenticeship with a newspaper, during which he had to telegraph stories to his editor, as a motivator for his simple sentence construction); a materialist approach to poetry (William Carlos Williams - glad to see you again!); and a heightened sense of the motion and physicality of the "real world", taken from Taylorization's attention to detail (John Dos Passos).

Tichi's approach is at its most effective when she goes into deep textual analysis, but when she situates these writers in their cultural milieu, things feel more scattershot. The images chosen to illustrate this book exemplify the problems with this approach - many of them are postcards of major engineering projects, or advertisements mentioning "efficiency", "waste", or other Taylorizing keywords in a commercial context. But often the images are not analyzed in depth or situated within a larger analysis, serving mostly as window dressing for her larger points.

By far the most useful chapter for my purposes is the one on the "cult of the engineer" in American culture (p 97). Here, Tichi describes how the engineer became a heroic figure in children's lit, movies, advertisements, and fiction, taking the place of the cowboy in stories of Western settlement and becoming an aspirational figure. Tichi writes of his appeal: "He signified stability in a changing world...he was technology's human face, providing reassurance that the world of gears and girders combined rationality with humanity" (99). Here she cites Henry Adams, Rex Beach, and Herbert Hoover, among others.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater, 1935

Reviews of others: Howard Segal wrote in the Journal of American History that the book was dispassionate and smart and steered clear of either hostility or worshipfulness, which were dangerous tendencies of other books about technology (this did come out in 1987, which was early in the "social-construction" game, I guess). He wished the book could have been more international. In American Literature, Christopher Nelson wrote that Tichi's method of analysis sometimes had trouble with matters of emphasis: why foreground one "cultural tendency" and background another as "latent"? This overstatement, Nelson wrote, led to occasional oversimplification, as when Tichi hit multiple times upon the "analogy of literary economy and engineering values". Nelson also wished that Tichi had included more material on the social realities of technology and its power relationships, such as the implications for labor or the structure of the working class.

Rube Goldberg device for cleaning shop windows; date of drawing unidentified on Rube Goldberg site. Goldberg's machines were parodies of labor-saving methods, exemplifying, like Chaplin's "Modern Times", the comic side of these obsessions with efficiency.

Books to follow up on:
Primary: the Erector set for kids (1910s); The Book of Wonders (1916 kids' text); St. Nicholas magazine; journal: School and Society; Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward 2000-1887 (1888); William Book, The Intelligence of High School Seniors (1922); John Dos Passos, Manhattan Transfer (1925); Frank Norris, The Octopus (1901); John H Randall, Our Changing Civilization: How Science and the Machine are Reconstructing Modern Life (1931); Civilization in the United States (anthology of intellectual thought in early 1920s); childrens' lit about engineering listed on page 100.

Secondary: Roland Barthes, The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies (1979).

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Last Child in the Woods

Image of schoolchildren pulling carrots comes from the website of The Edible Schoolyard, a school-garden project in Berkeley, spearheaded by Alice Waters. Caption: "'The garden looks beautiful, it smells great, it tastes like heaven, the sounds are very calming, and the feel of the plants is wonderful.' - Emily, 6th Grade". The emphasis on the multi-layered sensual experience echoes Louv's ideas about the ways that plants or the outdoors could calm children with ADHD or other behavorial disorders.

Title: Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2005)

Author: Richard Louv, journalist, columnist for the San Diego Union-Trib. Chairman of an org. called The Children and Nature Network. Author of other books about childhood and general life in America: Web of Life: Weaving the Values that Sustain Us (1998); 101 Things You Can Do For Our Children's Future (1993); and Childhood's Future (1992).

My review:

It's a difficult thing to read a book whose premises you fundamentally agree with, but whose presentation elides nuance and is ahistorical and alarmist. (Reminds me of watching "Fahrenheit 9/11" - ugh.) Yes, I do agree that kids spend too much time indoors playing video games; that it is a terrible thing that communities have little space for children to play in; that it sucks that parents are too afraid to let kids bike around by themselves, so they rein them in with cell phones and GPS devices or don't let them out at all; that it's bogus that science education seems not to foster a generalized love of the outdoors, instead directing children toward specialized technological achievement. But Louv's discussion of these matters relies so heavily on anecdote, and on fear, that I find myself picking holes in it almost against my will (and not just because I think Louv's characterization of the problem as "nature deficit disorder" is fundamentally opportunist - the man wanted to sell books, or his editor did, anyway).

A great kid-in-nature tome of earlier years: Gene Stratton-Porter's A Girl of the Limberlost (1909).

In many ways, Louv's central concerns are very similar to those of Progressive-era educational thinkers such as John Dewey (who he references on p 65, on the virtues of primary experience) and G. Stanley Hall (who idealized his own farm-based upbringing). Louv's book is mostly free from the nastier racial implications of the late nineteenth-century anxiety re: "overcivilization" and degeneration (nobody back then ever seemed to worry about whether black sharecroppers' kids in the South were becoming proper men - all that anxiety was reserved for cream-of-the-crop white children). However, Louv sometimes seems to assume that the standard-issue "kid" is a white suburban one. There are a couple mentions of the problem of equal access to natural areas, and a few interviews with black or Latino kids who come back from wilderness-ed programs fundamentally changed, but they feel like gestures.

Teddy Roosevelt had Louv-like fears a hundred years before Louv louved. Here he is, at about the age when "Teedie" would have started discovering his affinity for the outdoors - a lifelong affection he credited for his vitality and right-thinkingness. See his "The Strenuous Life" for more.

Although Louv does not prescribe the benefits of Outside as a tonic for race regeneration, he does focus on the benefits - a very androcentric approach, which totally ignores a deep-ecology or biocentric POV. Humans, and human kids, are what matters here, not the environment per se. I'll go into pick-apart mode here: Louv is basically arguing that human kids will become stronger, more mentally acute, be cured of behavior problems, and probably get better grades and better scores on their SATs, if they go wander into a forest every once in a while. Will driven middle-class parents everywhere now begin scheduling in nature-time for their little babies, to give them every advantage in the race for success? If it doesn't "work", will they stop? Is this any way to create a new environmental paradigm?

Louv's book touches on very complex contemporary environmental issues, such as whether or not religious groups will embrace a movement which they see as embodying some animistic pagan qualities (292) and even cites Jennifer Wolch's idea of the "zoopolis", or the new interpolation of wildlife and natural growth into the city. But his fundamental stance seems unprepared to grapple with the implications of the scope of the topic.

The questions I see arising here include the most basic ones about the aim of our society, including whether or not we believe in equal economic rights (and thus, access to nature) for all children;
whether technological education and environmental education can ever go hand in hand; whether we are willing to control capitalism (in the form of development) in order to create an environmentally aware society; and whether the system of labor and settlement brought about by advanced capitalism can be amended so that humans continue to get a good dose of "nature time" when they are young - and whether these humans will be able to maintain their contact with nature once they are working full-time, as are the parents reading this book, or whether they will be so straitened with the need to earn a living that they will not be able to do so. The alienation of childhood from the natural world is not the problem. This is a symptom of the way society is going today, and as such, will not be "fixed" in and of itself, but needs to be viewed as a part of a constellation of larger issues around environmental ethics and human rights.

Caption text from article by Michael B. Smith, "The Ego Ideal of 'The Good Camper' and the Nature of Summer Camp", Environmental History, January 2006 (link): "Boys at Camp Dudley, the first YMCA camp in the country, learn the finer points of axmanship, a skill intended to reconnect them with both nature and the "good life" of their frontier forbearers. As critics of this romantic construction of both nature and American history would later point out, learning to use an ax did not in itself prepare children very well for life in a modern city or suburb. (Courtesy of the YMCA of the USA and the Kautz Family YMCA Archive, University of Minnesota.)"

Books to follow up on:

The American Boys' Handy Book, written by Daniel Carter Beard (of the Boy Scouts) at the turn of the century, was reissued in a centennial edition in 2003 - a circumstance I find fascinating.

Eva, my friend who teaches elementary school, recommended this one. Which reminds me that Eva; my sister Sarah, who teaches pre-K kids; and my friend Mira, who is considering going into environmental education, are all intensely concerned about the issues Louv brings up. But Eva and Sarah are criminally underpaid, and Mira will be, if she goes through with her plan. Are Americans ready to consider environmental education as something CENTRAL to childhood, not a frill to be cut as soon as the budget gets tight? If they aren't ready, why? Is it because we still think of it as something that should take place organically (ha), in the bosom of the family (or in the backyard of the family, rather), like it used to? And if it doesn't take place organically, is it still as effective? Can a kid "discover" something s/he has been pointed towards?