Synopses & Reviews
Three years after Roger Kennedy retired as director of the National Park Service, from his Santa Fe home he watched as the Cerro Grande Fire moved across the Pajarito Plateau and into Los Alamos. Two hundred and thirty-five homes were destroyed, more than 45,000 acres of forest were burned, and the nation’s nuclear laboratories were threatened; even before the embers had died a blame game erupted. Kennedy’s career as a public servant, which encompasses appointments under five presidential administrations, convinced him that the tragedy would produce scapegoats and misinformation, and leave American lives at risk. That was unacceptable, even unforgivable.
Wildfire and Americans is a passionate, deeply informed appeal that we acknowledge wildfire not as a fire problem but as a people problem. Americans are in the wrong places, damningly because they were encouraged to settle there. Politicians, scientists, and CEOs acting out of patriotism, hubris, and greed have
placed their fellow countrymen in harm’s way. And now, with global warming, we inhabit a landscape that has become much more dangerous. Grounded in the conviction that we owe a duty to our environment and our fellow man, Wildfire and Americans is more than a depiction of policies gone terribly awry. It is a plea to acknowledge the mercy we owe nature and mankind.
"Outrage inspired Kennedy, a historian and former National Parks Service director, to write this clearheaded book, after a 2000 wildfire almost engulfed the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory near where he lived. What angered the eclectic author (Mr. Jefferson's Lost Cause) wasn't the fire itself but the 'orgy of scapegoating and misinformation' that followed. Kennedy has one word for the current administration's push to allow lumbering in federal forests to forestall fire problems: 'silly.' Such refreshingly blunt talk peppers this thoughtful, curmudgeonly book, which blames a massive urban dispersion program sold as a Cold War patriotic necessity and enabled by construction of tens of thousands of miles of interstate highways for nudging Americans from north and east into the west and south. The result, Kennedy says, was too many people settling in recognized flame zones. The author, a self-defined Eisenhower Republican, sees many villains, from greedy land developers and loggers disrespecting the environment to the Bush administration describing a healthy forest as one about to be clear cut a process that actually increases wildfire risk dramatically. His solution is a New Deal style public works project, 'Healthy Forests and Communities Corps' noble idealism that is unlikely to find favor in a political era where privatization is the preferred model. B&w photos, maps. (May) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Grounded in the conviction that mankind owes a duty to the environment, the author--retired director of the National Park Service--depicts policies gone terribly awry.
About the Author
Roger G. Kennedy has served as director of the National Park Service and director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The author of nine books, he lives in Boston, Massachusetts.