A climate of crisis America in the age of environmentalism

Patrick Allitt

Book - 2014

"Few issues today excite more passion or alarm than the specter of climate change. In A Climate of Crisis, historian Patrick Allitt shows that our present climate of crisis is far from exceptional. Indeed, the environmental debates of the last half century are defined by exaggeration and fearmongering from all sides, often at the expense of the facts."-- From dust jacket flap.

Saved in:

2nd Floor Show me where

333.72/Allitt
1 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 333.72/Allitt Checked In
Series
Penguin history of American life.
Subjects
Published
New York : The Penguin Press 2014.
Language
English
Physical Description
xv, 384 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 339-371) and index.
ISBN
9780143127017
9781594204661
1594204667
Main Author
Patrick Allitt (author)
  • The schizophrenic fifties
  • Pollution and pessimism
  • Politics and the environment
  • Energy politics
  • Crises and critics
  • Anti- and counterenvironmentalists
  • Ecologists and historians
  • Deep and radical ecology
  • Global warming
  • Environmental issues of the 1990s
  • The new millennium.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Our worries over climate change can be traced back to worries about the impact of the atomic bomb, argues Allitt. The same paradox of nuclear weapons—technology so extraordinarily powerful that its success provokes fear—is seen in industrial advancements that have led to worries about the environment. But the same technological or industrial advancement that produces the nuclear fears or environmental threats also makes it possible to detect and measure the threats and find solutions. The problem is exaggeration and fearmongering by groups that have led to mass movements, strident media coverage, and tightened regulations. Offering historical perspective on the tensions between industrialism, wealth-building, and environmentalism, Allitt traces social movements of the 1960s through the creation of Earth Day and the Environmental Protection Agency. Pondering the trade-offs of advancement and economic success vis-á-vis increasing polarization of industrialists and environmentalists, Allitt attempts to balance assumptions about who the good and bad guys are in the drama of the climate crisis and whether the crisis even exists. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

Historian Allitt (Emory Univ.; The Conservatives, CH, Jan'10, 47-2850) has attempted to write a history of American environmental issues and their consequences from the 1950s to the present. He sees environmentalists as having been highly successful in achieving their goals, and attributes this success to the availability of a free press (to promote and publicize various issues) that operates in a capitalistic industrialized democracy with enough wealth to realize its major aspirations. The range of environmental topics and controversies discussed is quite extensive, including nuclear war, pollution, energy, endangered species, and climate change. The author tries to present the views of environmental proponents and critics/skeptics fairly, with adequate documentation. Allitt considers the Cold War the greatest threat that the world has faced since 1945, and the fact that the environmental antagonists prevented it from becoming a nuclear war is an encouraging example that modern nations can also find a successful resolution to the global warming threat before it becomes a catastrophe. This provocative book may become the starting point for future environmental discussions. It is an easy read and deserves a wide audience. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic, general, and professional library collections. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Professionals/Practitioners. F. N. Egerton emeritus, University of Wisconsin--Parkside Copyright 2014 American Library Association.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Emory University historian Allitt (The Conservatives) examines contemporary American environmentalism historically, from his "counter-environmentalist" and pro-industrialist stance, in order to allay fears of a real crisis. He structures his work chronologically, devoting each chapter to the conflicting issues within each established time frame. His initial chapter on the 1950s describes "nuclear anxieties" and worries about overpopulation, eventually making his way through discussions of biofuels, invasive species, and alternative energy. While Allitt claims that "America's environmental problems have been manageable problems," it's difficult to assess the extent to which his claim is based on wishful thinking or just a cherry-picking of the available evidence. He also implies that environmental advocates are motivated less by scientific evidence than careerism or a desire to constrain the economy. This is most striking in his dubious discussion of anthropogenic climate change, of which he remains a skeptic. Though "he study of history shows us how bad we are at predicting the future," that has little bearing on the fact that 97% of climate research points to human activity as the culprit, regardless of potential future outcomes. Allitt doesn't question his own technophilia, and his belief that capitalism and technology will solve our ecological problems should be received with its own dose of skepticism. (Apr.) [Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A provocative history of the environmental movement in America, showing how this rise to political and social prominence produced a culture of alarmism that has often distorted the factsFew issues today excite more passion or alarm than the specter of climate change. In A Climate of Crisis, historian Patrick Allitt shows that our present climate of crisis is far from exceptional. Indeed, the environmental debates of the last half century are defined by exaggeration and fearmongering from all sides, often at the expense of the facts. In a real sense, Allitt shows us, collective anxiety about widespread environmental danger began with the atomic bomb. As postwar suburbanization transformed the American landscape, more research and better tools for measurement began to reveal the consequences of economic success. A climate of anxiety became a climate of alarm, often at odds with reality. The sixties generation transformed environmentalism from a set of special interests into a mass movement. By the first Earth Day in 1970, journalists and politicians alike were urging major initiatives to remedy environmental harm. In fact, the work of the new Environmental Protection Agency and a series of clean air and water acts from a responsive Congress inaugurated a largely successful cleanup. Political polarization around environmental questions after 1980 had consequences that we still feel today. Since then, the general polarization of American politics has mirrored that of environmental politics, as pro-environmentalists and their critics attribute to one another the worst possible motives. Environmentalists see their critics as greedy special interest groups that show no conscience as they plunder the earth while skeptics see their adversaries as enemies of economic growth whose plans stifle initiative under an avalanche of bureaucratic regulation. There may be a germ of truth in both views, but more than a germ of falsehood too. America’s worst environmental problems have proven to be manageable; the regulations and cleanups of the last sixty years have often worked, and science and technology have continued to improve industrial efficiency. Our present situation is serious, argues Allitt, but it is far from hopeless. Sweeping and provocative, A Climate of Crisis challenges our basic assumptions about the environment, no matter where we fall along the spectrum—reminding us that the answers to our most pressing questions are sometimes found in understanding the past.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

A provocative history of the environmental movement in America, showing how this rise to political and social prominence produced a culture of alarmism that has often distorted the factsFew issues today excite more passion or alarm than the specter of climate change. In A Climate of Crisis, historian Patrick Allitt shows that our present climate of crisis is far from exceptional. Indeed, the environmental debates of the last half century are defined by exaggeration and fearmongering from all sides, often at the expense of the facts. In a real sense, Allitt shows us, collective anxiety about widespread environmental danger began with the atomic bomb. As postwar suburbanization transformed the American landscape, more research and better tools for measurement began to reveal the consequences of economic success. A climate of anxiety became a climate of alarm, often at odds with reality. The sixties generation transformed environmentalism from a set of special interests into a mass movement. By the first Earth Day in 1970, journalists and politicians alike were urging major initiatives to remedy environmental harm. In fact, the work of the new Environmental Protection Agency and a series of clean air and water acts from a responsive Congress inaugurated a largely successful cleanup. Political polarization around environmental questions after 1980 had consequences that we still feel today. Since then, the general polarization of American politics has mirrored that of environmental politics, as pro-environmentalists and their critics attribute to one another the worst possible motives. Environmentalists see their critics as greedy special interest groups that show no conscience as they plunder the earth while skeptics see their adversaries as enemies of economic growth whose plans stifle initiative under an avalanche of bureaucratic regulation. There may be a germ of truth in both views, but more than a germ of falsehood too. America’s worst environmental problems have proven to be manageable; the regulations and cleanups of the last sixty years have often worked, and science and technology have continued to improve industrial efficiency. Our present situation is serious, argues Allitt, but it is far from hopeless. Sweeping and provocative, A Climate of Crisis challenges our basic assumptions about the environment, no matter where we fall along the spectrum—reminding us that the answers to our most pressing questions are sometimes found in understanding the past.