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Environmentalism Unbound by Robert Gottlieb

2001; 396 pp.


MIT Press

Robert Gottlieb critiques environmentalism's "narrow conception of environment which has isolated it from vital issues of everyday life, such as workplace safety, healthy communities, and food security." His case studies include such seemingly pedestrian sectors as the dry cleaning industry's "chemical dependency" on toxics, the use of unsafe janitorial cleaning materials, and responses to hunger and malnutrition. Since these are arenas where the workers and families affected are predominantly poorer people of color, the issues are bound with questions of race and economic survival. Gottlieb is an academic and writes as one, but this is a valuable primer on the realpolitik of urban environmentalism. ?Steve Heilig

Have you ever wondered why food stamp and school lunch programs are housed in the Department of Agriculture rather than Health and Human Services, or whether that might have anything to do with epidemic-level malnourishment and obesity among low-performing kids in urban schools? Gottlieb offers the best concise history I've seen of American food and food programs, while making the case for the priority of these issues in the environmentalist agenda. ?Mike Stone

"The Federal Surplus Relief Corporation became the Federal Surplus Commodities Corporation, and the primary thrust of surplus food programs was clearly established as grower support programs....[The] concept of expanding rather than displacing domestic demand for agricultural products cemented the evolution of food aid policy in the New Deal as a temporary adjunct to farm policy rather than as a form of social welfare or income policy.

...[By the 1990s] it had become increasingly clear that hunger intervention could not be successfully managed when solely defined as a moment of crisis for individuals requiring emergency relief. The problem of not enough to eat ultimately became part of a continuum of food insecurity problems at the community scale."

"The mainstream environmentalism that had emerged by the 1970s functioned on the basis of the division between work, product, and environment, whether in terms of policy or the advocacy of consumer, occupational health, and environmental movements. This additional separation of the spheres of daily life paralleled the division of city and countryside (with the urban core identified as the anti-environment) and the erosion of the regional vision of balanced, ecological communities in the wake of the auto-induced fragmented metropolitan realities. By the end of the century, the environmental cause had become more cri-de-coeur than agenda for action. "


ISBN: 0262072106

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