Books  General Natural History  Environmental History 

Shrinking the Earth: The Rise and Decline of American Abundance

Brings big ideas down to earth with numerous "field trips" to specific locales
Presents as a historical narrative with commentary on current events, not a polemic

By: Donald Worster (Author)

288 pages, 20 b/w photos

Oxford University Press USA

Hardback | Mar 2016 | #223804 | ISBN-13: 9780199844951
Availability: Usually dispatched within 48 hours
NHBS Price: £18.99 $23/€21 approx

About this book

The discovery of the Americas around 1500 AD was an extraordinary watershed in human experience. It gave rise to the modern period of human ecology, a phenomenon global in scope that set in motion profound changes in almost every society on earth. This new period, which saw the depletion of the lands of the New World, proved tragic for some, triumphant for others, and powerfully affecting for all.

In Shrinking the Earth, acclaimed environmental historian Donald Worster takes a global view in his examination of the ways in which complex issues of worldwide abundance and scarcity have shaped American society and behavior over three centuries. Looking at the limits nature imposes on human ambitions, he questions whether today's America is in the midst of a shift from a culture of abundance to a culture of limits – and whether American consumption has become reliant on the global South. Worster engages with key political, economic, and environmental thinkers while presenting his own interpretation of the role of capitalism and government in issues of wealth, abundance, and scarcity. Acknowledging the earth's agency throughout human history, Shrinking the Earth offers a compelling explanation of how we have arrived where we are today and a hopeful way forward on a planet that is no longer as large as it once was.


Prologue: Gatsby's Green Light

Part One: Second Earth
- The Age of Abundance Begins
- Many Revolutions Follow
- Ultimately, Stability
- Field Trip: Nantucket Island

Part Two: After the Frontier
- The Watershed
- Land of Coal and Steel
- The Resourceful State
- Field Trip: Imperial Valley

Part Three: Planet of Limits
- Plunder and Plenty
- David Potter's America
- A Wolf over the Hill
- Earth's Boundaries
- Field Trip: Athabasca River

Epilogue: Life on a Pale Blue Dot


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Donald Worster is Hall Distinguished Professor of American History Emeritus at the University of Kansas and Honorary Director of the Center for Ecological History at the University of Remnin. He is the author of many books, including A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir (OUP 2008); A River Running West (OUP 2000); The Wealth of Nature: Environmental History and the Ecological Imagination (OUP 1993); and Under Western Skies: Nature and History in the American West (OUP 1993).

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