The Age of Ecology is the first major study of the history of environmentalism, from its origins in romanticism and the nature cults of the late 18th century to the global environmental movements of today.
Radkau shows that this is not a single story of the steady ascent of environmentalism but rather a multiplicity of stories, each with its own dramatic tension: between single-issue movements and the challenges posed by the interconnection of environmental issues, between charismatic leaders and bureaucratic organizations, and between grassroot movements and global players. While the history can be traced back several centuries, environmentalism has flourished since the 'environmental revolution' of 1970, spurred on by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 and the growing concern about global warming. While environmentalists often opposed the scientific mainstream, they were also often led by scientific knowledge. Environmentalism is the true Enlightenment of our time Ð so much so that we can call our era 'the age of ecology'.
This timely and comprehensive global history of environmentalism will be essential reading for anyone concerned with the most pressing global issues of our time.
Preface to the English Edition
Introduction: The Green Chameleon
Chapter One: Environmentalism before the Environmental Movement
1. Good Mother Nature and the ‘Appalling Wood Shortage’: The Twin Face of Nature in the Decline of the Commons
2. Nature in Need of Protection and Nature as Healing Power: Environmental Activism in the ‘Nervous Age’
3. ‘The Desert Threatens’: Environmental Fears in the Age of Crisis - the New Deal and Nazi Germany
4. Think Big! A Charismatic Intermezzo on the Olympian Heights
Chapter Two: The Great Chain Reaction: the ‘Ecological Revolution’ in and around 1970
Chapter Three: Networked Thinking and Practical Priorities: an Endless Interplay
1. On the Ecology of Ecologism
2. Water and the Atom
3. Changing Priorities: the Movement in Motion
Chapter Four: Charismatics and Ecocrats
1. Spiritual Quest and Charismatic Moments
2. Ten Heroines Embodying Tensions in the Movement
3. Institutionalization, Routinization, Revitalization
Chapter Five: A Friend-Enemy or Win-Win Scenario?
1. From Nuclear Power to the Spotted Owl
2. Violence and the Green Conscience
3. Ecology and Economics: the Challenge of Conceptual Analogy
Chapter Six: Ecology and the Historic Turn of 1990 - From Social Justice to Climate Justice?
Conclusion: The Dialectic of Green Enlightenment
Joachim Radkau is professor of modern history at Bielefeld University, Germany. His previous publications include Wood: A History and Max Weber: A Biography.
"Do not be misled by the title. Much of what this book contains is not ecology per se but rather a history of environmental cultural change in which growing ecological awareness has been a driving force. [...] This is a difficult book to review not only because the author has ranged so widely but his structure of just six chapters for 430 pages and a constantly moving time frame is hard work to follow. [...] A very thought provoking book!"
– David Walton, The BES Bulletin 45(2), June 2014
"Radkau's new book is by far the finest informative read available on the environmental movement in its many diverse varieties from its modern beginnings until now, and the women and men whose passions inspired it. Protests and politics, activism and reaction, love of nature and hatred of pollution – all are shown with a clarity that makes sense to the reader. This is the compelling global story of the most distinctive popular movement of our age, the Age of Ecology."
– J. Donald Hughes, University of Denver
"With his customary synoptic vision and idiosyncratic eye for telling detail, Radkau offers a revealing tableau of the multiple histories of modern environmentalism in Europe, in America, and around the world. The Age of Ecology is the most thought-provoking and wide-ranging book yet on its subject."
– J. R. McNeill, Georgetown University
"A comprehensive and compelling global history of environmental movements.'
– Die Zeit
"An authoritative global history of ecology."
– Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
"Brilliant – by far the best account of the global environmental movement [...] A great achievement."
– Deutschlandradio Kultur