Book Excerpt and Reviews! The Ecocentrists: A History of Radical Environmentalism

Woodhouse deftly brings together the intellectual history of the many threads of American environmentalism with the thinkers, the activists, the organizations, and the issues that have charged environmental politics since the 1960s. Required reading for anyone with a serious interest in the history of environmental activism and thought.

~ James Morton Turner, Wellesley College

Our campaign for climate change continues today with an excerpt from The Ecocentrists
A History of Radical Environmentalism. In this work, Keith Makoto Woodhouse offers a nuanced history of radical environmentalism in the late-twentieth-century United States. Focusing especially on the group Earth First!, The Ecocentrists explores how it challenged civilization but glossed over the ways economic inequality and social difference defined people’s relationships to the nonhuman world.

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Book Reviews!

The Ecocentrists: A History of Radical Environmentalism

PW: May 2018

Historian Woodhouse offers a deeply researched and thoughtful reappraisal of the ideas and tactics of the radical environmentalist fringe that, driven by a sense of crisis, broke away from the larger environmental movement in the 1980s. The first half of the book details the rise of modern environmentalism as a political and cultural force, emanating from relatively small but determined bands of conservationists led by figures such as the Sierra Club’s David Brower. Woodhouse carefully traces the reversals, contradictions, coalitions, and rifts in the environmental movement, which, by the early 1970s, was professionalized and transformed into a powerful political lobby. 

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The Ecocentrists: A History of Radical Environmentalism

Library Journal: June 2018

Woodhouse (history, Northwestern Univ.) offers an intellectual history of U.S. environmentalism, focusing on the expansion of the Sierra Club in the 1960s through the evolution of a radical environmental movement that emerged in the 1980s, Earth First! The author chronicles the struggles within the Sierra Club as its leadership sought to address relevant conservation issues within the context of a society that was experiencing economic growth and demanding societal equality. By the first Earth Day in April 1970, the conservation movement was an “environmental” movement and people were concerned about myriad issues, including population growth, immigration, and preservation of wilderness.

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The ecocentrists : a history of radical environmentalism

CHOICE Reviews: October 2018

Woodhouse’s book is best viewed as a rich account of the group Earth First! rather than as a comprehensive history of radical environmentalism. The author eschews biographical background of movement leaders in favor of a less compelling framework focused more on organizations. The group Zero Population Growth represents the crisis environmentalism of the 1970s in one early chapter, but is thereafter neglected. The Sierra Club serves as an establishment foil throughout the book, as Woodhouse chronicles the evolution of Earth First! from its 1980s commitment to anti-humanistic holism to its more mature consideration of the claims of environmental social justice by the 1990s.

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