American Environmentalism: Values, Tactics, Priorities

By Joseph M. Petulla | Go to book overview

7
Growth and Decay

ANOTHER slice of environmental consciousness cuts across all three positions--biocentric, ecologic, and economic. It eschews materialist commercial values. It also fears and warns against unstable, uncontrolled, irrational growth of ecosystems. This conjunction of environmental thinking perhaps can be termed antigrowth, but a wide range of perceptions of the problem (which go beyond the population question or economic growth) and many varieties of active participation in the movement preclude easy generalization about its name, precursors, successes, limitations, and values.

Antigrowth environmental philosophy is more of a reaction to developments in western culture than a positive philosophy. By the turn of the century in the United States nearly every voice was raised against the ugly faces of the mills and the grime of the cities, but no universal scapegoat could be agreed upon. Progressives, anarchists, socialists, reformers, churchmen, and other commentators prescribed short- and long-term remedies. Some blamed the capitalist economy; very few pointed the finger at economic growth in itself. Whatever solution anybody proposed, it nearly always included or assumed more material development, which was identified with progress. It took a century, a few persevering prophets, and the blending of other environmental ideas into its message for the antigrowth sensitivity to precipitate in environmentalism.

One of its first modern spokesmen was Lewis Mumford. His ideas have found their way directly or indirectly into a score of environmentalist writings. One of his most common themes is the tyranny

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American Environmentalism: Values, Tactics, Priorities
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • PART I - PROBLEM AND BACKGROUND 1
  • 1 - Environmental Values 3
  • 2 - Traditions of Conservation 24
  • PART II 41
  • 3 43
  • 4 - Enemies of Disruption 60
  • 5 - Environmental Economists 75
  • PART III - CRITICAL ISSUES 95
  • 6 - Varieties of Environmental Argument 97
  • 7 - Growth and Decay 119
  • 8 - Risk and Conservation 141
  • PART IV - EMERGING PRIORITIES 175
  • 9 - The Public Good 177
  • 10 - Environmental Ethics 204
  • Epilogue Sincerity and Authenticity 232
  • Index 235
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