More to `Green' Than Meets the Eye

Article excerpt

FOR most people, the environmental movement is about spotted owls and whales and grizzlies - essentially "green" with an emphasis on protecting wilderness and wildlife. Nature is at its core and pretty much defines its boundaries.

But a fuller and more accurate definition of environmentalism would have to include the social and urban aspects of American history - not only since the first Earth Day in 1970 or the conservation efforts of Teddy Roosevelt in the early part of this century, but also back to the Industrial Revolution.

An examination of this history, as well as its impact on present-day environmentalism, would have to recognize issues of gender, race, and class as key factors.

This is the premise and purpose of Robert Gottlieb's thoughtful and well-written survey of American environmentalism from the late 19th century to the present. "Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement" is an important work, providing for general readers as well as specialists the background to an emergent way of thinking that goes beyond activism to define values that have quietly begun to affect politics and society at all levels.

"The problem with the story historians have told us is whom it leaves out and what it fails to explain," writes Gottlieb. "A history that separates resource development and its regulation from the urban and industrial environment disguises a crucial link that connects both pollution and the loss of wilderness."

Gottlieb devotes chapters to gender, class, and ethnicity as factors in the growth and evolution of environmentalism. With many examples, he illustrates, for example, how women have played the leading role in grass-roots activism on environmental issues like toxic waste. …