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The Green Life: Book Roundup Wednesday: Environmental Governance

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November 10, 2010

Book Roundup Wednesday: Environmental Governance

Books about environmentalism Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. This week, we're looking books about governments' environmental regulation.

Regulating From Nowhere: Environmental Law and the Search for Objectivity (by Douglas A. Kysar, $36, Yale University Press, 2010): Environmental regulation in the United States, in an attempt to foster market growth and to avoid stepping on individual liberty, has become a resolutely objective and impersonal process, Kysar argues in his new book. But how can we provide environmental stewardship without caring about the environment? This is the fundamental question Kysar asks in Regulating From Nowhere, which is heavy on philosophy and law theory but still provocative in its execution. By "regulating from nowhere," American environmental policy has refrained from taking any ethical positions, and so our government has forgotten why we should protect the environment in the first place. 

Next Generation Democracy: What the Open-Source Revolution Means for Power, Politics, and Change (by Jared Duval, Bloomsbury, 2010): Duval, a former director of the Sierra Club Student Coalition, examines how democracy can manage vast (and vastly complicated) issues such as greenhouse gas emissions. He cites the response to Hurricane Katrina as an example of the government's ineffectiveness in dealing with 21st century problems. He contrasts this with the wide-reaching effectiveness of non-governmental democratic institutions, offering his own take on how the next generation of Americans can affect real change in our world. 

Whaling in Japan: Power, Politics, and Diplomacy (by Jun Morikawa, $40, Columbia University Press, 2009): If you've seen Whale Wars on Animal Planet, in which fuming environmentalists take on Japanese whalers on the high seas, you know that it's easy to get caught up in the excitement without really understanding the issue. Thus, Morikawa's new book is a timely exploration of the political and cultural background to the Japanese whaling industry, as well as the real environmental stakes, taking all sides into account and pulling no punches.

The Age of Smoke: Environmental Policy in Germany and the United States, 1880-1970 (by Frank Uekoetter, $25, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009): This intriguing look into the environmental policies of two superpowers in an era when massive industrial enterprise trumped almost all other concerns may force you to draw unlikely comparisons. Uekotter analyzes the pressing global and national issues that pushed environmentalism onto the stage in both nations, as well as the governments' attempt to play catch up with the civic activism that stemmed from widespread industrialization.

Where the Dragon Meets the Angry River: Nature and Power in the People's Republic of China (by R. Edward Grumbine, $25, Island Press, 2010): China is undeniably a superpower in today's global political climate, but can it be an environmental leader? Grumbine's fascinating new book examines the country's burgeoning environmental movement at its source: in the rain forests, mountains, and rivers of Southeast China. Grumbine deftly blends first-hand experience tramping through Chinese rain forests with untiring research to create a unique landscape of China's burgeoning eco-consciousness.

--Ronny Smith

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