Welcome to Living Classics, our new book review column. Upcoming issues of Alternatives will include a look back on classic environmental books and reports. We've dusted off old copies of Silent Spring, the Berger Report, Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac, and more to see how they resonate today.
We invite you to suggest your favourite living classics, and most of all, enjoy.
THERE'S NO END of explanations for the recent greening of politics: a weirdly warm and stormy winter, energy insecurities, Katrina. And then there's Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth; it testifies to one person's ability to reshape the debate. This has happened before. Forty-five years ago, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring voiced inchoate fears of a poisoned planet, thereby compelling the creation of environmental politics.
Gore and Carson make a curious pair. One is a public figure, accustomed to attention and power. The other was happiest with family, and a few friends and colleagues, and devoted many solitary hours to the writing life. The contrast is evident in their works: Carson displays logic and eloquence, but never herself; Gore never leaves the stage. Carson's evidence speaks for her through striking accounts of ugly and unlikely matters: chemical poisons, the formation of soil, the metabolism of cells. Silent Spring has no photos and few drawings; Carson's crisis is not just silent, but unseen. In contrast, Gore's language is visual: the jagged ascent of carbon dioxide, glaciers melting off mountains, hurricanes pounding cities, rising seas swamping coastlines.
These images also reflect the man. Just as Gore's status puts him not so much within, as above the rest...
This is a preview. Get the full text through your school or public library.