New Login   

Agenda for Change

Mahesh Rangarajan

By James Gustave Speth
Yale University Press, London . Indian edition: Orient Longman, Delhi, 2005, pp. 299, Rs. 395.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 1-2 January-February 2006

James Gustave Speth is now Professor at the School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences at Yale, an institution founded a century ago by the legendary Bernhard Fernow. Having studied Law, Speth was one of the founders of the Natural Resources Defence Council. Equally useful in terms of his insights into governmental policymaking was his role as an advisor to Jimmy Carter, and his central role in the formulation of the Global 2000 Report. At the global level, he also headed the UN Development Programme at a time when its brief and manifest expanded in significant ways.   Global Environmental Challenges is both a look back at his vast experience in this field and also an attempt to draw together a workable agenda for forces of change in difficult times. The book not only lucidly and briefly sums up key challenges; it also catalogues where and who spearheads the efforts. A whole list of websites and sources makes this an especially valuable book for the concerned citizen as much as for the scholar. Contrary to the optimism that marked the wave of the environmental movement a quarter century ago, things look a lot tougher now. This is nowhere as true as in the US, not only in official Washington DC but also in the profound and epochal changes in the body politic and culture of that vast country.   Speth is at his best in looking back at the factors that drove the environmental concern in the US in his formative years. The late 1960s—when he was a law student at Yale (where he now teaches, as a Professor)—were a time of intellectual and social ferment. Though he only alludes to it, they were also a time of great turmoil. The Tet offensive in Vietnam in the summer of 1968, a string of assassinations of leading political figures in the US and domestic unrest over civil rights and the war fed into and drew from concerns about the livability of the earth. The author points out how works like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring published in 1962 undermined public faith in corporations. The public scientist, in the form of figures like Rene Dubois and Paul Ehrlich, Carson herself and Barry Commoner all played a key role in conscientiazation. Speth observes with prescience how the idea of the teach-in was taken from the civil rights movement and given a wider reach on earth day 22 April 1970.   ...

Table of Contents >>
Please or to Read Entire Article

Free Access Online 12 Back Issues
with 1 year's subscription
Archive (1976-2011)
under construction.