March 31, 2008

Book Review - Consuming Nature

Consuming Nature: Environmentalism in the Fox River Valley, 1950-1950
Gregory Summers
GE 198 .F69 S86 2006

Summers argues that modern environmentalism has its roots in people's need to consume and use natural resources. He begins his book by highlighting a case study involving the Fox River in Wisconsin. Traditionally a paper manufacturing area, he demonstrates how the feelings of local residents changed toward the river and the manufacturing that it supported once outdoor recreation became popular around the river. Once concerned only about the economic support that the paper manufacturing industry provided for the local area, people's feelings shifted toward intolerance of the pollution that the factories dumped into the river and the increasing desire for aesthetically beautiful surroundings. Summers then places this case study into a larger framework by citing similar concerns in small communities throughout the United States. Not only had a legal challenge concerning the Fox River attracted national attention, but other local conflicts reinforced the changing ideas about the environment. This is an interesting study on its own, but it is particularly valuable as a contribution to the discussion of growing concern about the environment in the scholarly literature.