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The Last Refuge: Patriotism, Politics, and the Environment in an Age of Terrorby David W. Orr
Synopses & Reviews
"Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels" -SAMUEL JOHNSON, 1775
"a tightly reasoned, excellently written book that should be lethally effective in helping readers who aren't experts understand the contours of the crisis." -TOLEDO BLADE
Updated and revised following the 2004 elections, The Last Refuge describes the current state of American politics against the backdrop of mounting ecological and social problems, the corrosive influence of money, the corruption of language, and the misuse of terrorism as a political issue.
Setting out an agenda that transcends conventional ideological labels, David Orr contends that partisan wrangling is only a symptom of a deeper dysfunction: The whole political machinery that connects Americans' fundamentally honorable ideals with public policy is broken. The book offers a withering critique of the failings of the Bush administration, supplemented by new essays that look at the national-level dominance of the Republican Party and examine the fallacy that the evangelical right represents a Christian majority.
After analyzing the challenges of reforming the current system, Orr offers an empowering vision of a second American Revolution that peaceably achieves sustainability and charts a hopeful course for forward-looking citizens.
"In 13 essays, Orr, professor of environmental studies and politics at Oberlin, critiques what he says is the current Bush administration's lack of environmental policy and calls for a more engaged citizenry. Orr sets the scene by relating a 2001 meeting with noncommittal White House staffers in which he and other leading environmentalists presented an environmental status report, entitled 'Common Ground/Common Futures.' 'The news was delivered,' he writes. 'But no one was home.' The present state of environmental affairs, he says, reflects 'an unconstrained managerial and well-armed plutocracy intent on global plunder.' Orr advocates a coherent environmental agenda, vigorous public information, restored political leadership and increased emphasis on environmental study in higher education. Specific essays focus on particular figures in the debate: one exposes Bjorn Lomberg, a favorite author of Dick Cheney's, as 'scientifically dishonest,' while another praises writer Wendell Berry's commitment to agrarian ideals. Perhaps the most informative essay in the collection, entitled 'Leverage,' examines the meager patchwork of U.S. environmental regulations and the nation's libertarian tendencies. Orr's politics will be familiar to all left-wing readers. There is little originality in his criticisms of the right and its attitude toward natural resources and energy efficiency. Orr's writing is steeped in sometimes utopian antimodern longings for small family farms, ecologically sound urban planning, increased public transportation and ecological diversity. While it's not hard to imagine how these essays might energize a readership committed to Orr's brand of politics, their rhetoric is too repetitive and ponderously moralizing to win wider audiences for their ideas. (Apr. 6)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Orr (environmental science and politics, Oberlin College) takes as his text the observation that Americans are the most media saturated and the least informed people on the planet. Many reprinted from the journal Conservation Biology, a dozen essays look at recent US politics and the flourishing art of denial; four aspects of what has come to be known as sustainability; and the deep intersection of human frailties, possibilities, and obligations with global ecological realities.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Hard-hitting and often caustic, this set of 13 essays describes the current state of American politics against the backdrop of mounting ecological and social problems, the corrosive influence of money, the corruption of language, and the misuse of terrorism as a political issue.
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