Political greens of all hues

Debating the Earth
May 27, 2005

The past two decades have seen a surge in books debating environmental issues from various vantage points. Debating the Earth is a valuable addition to this growing literature from an environmental politics perspective - a perspective that has in the past 40 years come from nowhere to constitute what is a large, lively, burgeoning and diverse field. This book is a reader, comprising five parts and 44 chapters that provide summaries of classic articles and books on environmental politics. It brings together internationally renowned authors who approach environmental politics issues from different disciplinary, conceptual and philosophical angles.

Most contributors will be familiar to those working on environmental issues. They include a wide range of authors spanning the spectrum between ecocentrism and technocentrism, as well as economic, political, ecological and legal perspectives. Ecocentric viewpoints are, for example, espoused in chapters by Lester Brown ("A planet under stress"), Gareth Hardin ("The tragedy of the commons") and Arne Naess ("Shallow and deep ecology movement"), while technocentric thinking underpins contributions from Julian Simon ("The resourceful Earth") and Bjørn Lomborg ("The truth about the environment"). Political issues are specifically addressed in William Ophuls and Stephen Boyan’s consideration of "American political economy", in Paul Wapner’s excellent discussion of "Politics beyond the state" and in Andrew Dobson’s critical examination of "Ecological citizenship". Noteworthy also is the inclusion of contributions from Murray Bookchin ("Society and ecology") and Ulrich Beck ("Politics and risk society"), as well as contributions from the developing world including Vandana Shiva’s chapter on "Poverty and globalisation" and Ramachandra Guha’s critical analysis of "Environmentalism of the poor".

The book offers the reader a broad-based perspective on environmental politics that gives insight into many different aspects of the environmental debate. As individual contributions are summaries of already published and often-cited texts, they are inevitably well written and accessible. The editors should be congratulated on putting together a collection in which every item is worth reading and where the whole is equal to the sum of its parts. The text should appeal to any student or researcher interested in environmental debates and the politics of the environment. I am convinced that this excellent, accessible and wide-ranging book will find its way into many libraries and on to personal bookshelves.

Geoff A. Wilson is professor of human geography, Plymouth University.

Debating the Earth: The Environmental Politics Reader. Second edition

Editor - John S. Dryzek and David Schlosberg
Publisher - Oxford University Press
Pages - 658
Price - £28.99
ISBN - 0 19 9629 3

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