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Journal of Political Ecology:
Case Studies in History and Society
VOLUME 6 (1999)
Politics: The Role of Radical Environmentalism in Crafting Environmental
Policy, by Phillip F. Cramer, Westport, CT: Praeger Books (1998).
xvi, 238 pp.
Reviewed by Gregory V. Button, School of Public Health, University of Michigan.
author notes in his preface, few books have been published to date that
measure the influence of the Deep Ecology philosophy on the environmental
movement, especially its influence on environmental policy. Unfortunately,
by the time one has finished reading this book the temptation may be to
conclude that the reason for this deficiency is the lack of influence
deep ecology has had on the formulation of policy.
is divided into three parts. Part One provides the reader with an introduction
to the Deep Ecology perspective. Cramer's overview is adequate, if uninspiring.
He sketches for the uninformed reader the basic tenets of the philosophical
tradition that inspired the Deep Ecology movement and provides a cursory
overview of the fundamental canons of the movement. Thus, he sketches
for the reader Deep Ecology's rejection of an anthropocentric environmentalism
and its major paradigm shift to an environmentalism that is predicated
on "ecocentrism" that attempts to create major changes in our
perceptions, values and lifestyles. Stressing a harmony with nature
and the intrinsic worth of all species, Cramer describes a philosophy
that rejects the excessive human interference with the natural world and
writes of the need for extensive societal changes that shun centralization
and promote local autonomy. However, as with the rest of the book, the
author's writing reads more like a tepid outline than a mature textual
narration of the material.
of the book adheres to this tedious style. In Part Two, in which Cramer
attempts to analyze Deep Ecology and its impact on contemporary politics,
he examines environmental legislation, Congressional testimony and court
decisions in his quest to investigate the influence of the movement. His
approach to these subjects lacks the analytical rigor to which most social
scientists are accustomed. His minimalist approach results in simply summarizing
the evidence in such a way that he devotes superficial attention to such
major and complex documents as the 1963 Clean Air Act.
Thus congressional legislation is tersely examined for a speck of influence or mere mention of deep ecology or any discourse that might be even remotely related to the movement. The reader is provided with no overview of the legislation or its purpose. The result is a run of seemingly unrelated paragraphs that tick through recent legislative acts one after another with no analytical connection or textual passage from one to another.
conclusion of his survey of fifty-two legal articles, he states. "it
would not be prudent to reach a make sweeping conclusions based on the
small number of articles in this study" (p. 172). The same may well
be said for his superficial analysis of all the texts that he employs
in the book. When the author does make conclusions, they have a hollow
ring to them such as the following: "The study found that the language
of Deep Ecology is rarely used in Congressional hearings" (p. 221).
As unsurprising as this is, Creamer is at a loss to make any analysis
of why it is the case, or what effect, if any, is felt on Congressional
policy. For that matter, Cramer is equally inattentive to the ways in
which Congressional policy is distinguished because the influence of Deep
Ecology appears to be altogether missing.
Three, "The Media Coverage of Deep Ecology", maintains the same
plodding approach as the author attempts to study 372 articles about deep
ecology (how and why they were chosen, or why they are taken to be representative
of the media is not clear). This review "substantiates" that
the media coverage of Deep Ecology is "negative". Cramer never
makes clear whose whose claim is it that he "substantiates?"
And as with much of the book's material, we are never quite sure who is
the referent, let alone who composes the Deep Ecology movement.
aside the substance of the conclusions, the reader is forced to ask what
this means, because the meanings and their implications for influence
on policy, are left wholly unexamined and only at best inferred. Once
again, in this altogether too brief chapter that purports to examine a
sizable body of media texts, the author devotes sparse attention to media
categories and thus, for example, a mere ten sentences suffices for a
discussion of scientific magazines. Moreover, of the hundreds of articles
Cramer examines, he never clearly delineates how many were scientific
magazines, how many were U.S. newspapers, and how many from other media
outlets. Furthermore, in his analysis he seems to conflate not only sources,
but categories; thus he conflates book reviews along with newspaper articles,
making an unwieldy mess of media evidence.
final media analysis chapter he employs what he terms an "admittedly
subjective" method, which provides a statistical analysis of 372
articles spanning 15 years. While this time he does provide us with a
breakdown of the media sources, he is merely concerned with whether the
articles mention Deep Ecology in a negative or positive manner. What the
ultimate meaning of his findings are for his investigation is left implicit
and unclear. What after all, is the significance of some media coverage
being positive, negative, mixed or unscoreable? What relevance any of
this has with the stated objectives of the book is left poorly underdeveloped.
In the book's conclusion, which provides us with as little insight as the text, Cramer rather surprisingly states that "the book has attempted to illustrate how deep ecology and radical environmentalism have tried to reverse the engines of society and thus craft a new environmental policy". This statement seems wholly out of keeping with much of what the book is about. It seems rather that the book has tried to measure how successful (as the intended objective stated at the outset) Deep Ecology has been instead of illustrating "how" it has tried to influence contemporary environmental policy. This lack of clarity of purpose serves only to underscore the confusion and futility of the disparate and superficial evidence that the author has assembled to conduct his study.