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Shrinking the Earth

The Rise and Decline of American Abundance

Donald Worster

12 April 2018

ISBN: 9780190849856

280 pages

In Stock

Price: £12.99



Donald 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.

  • Tackles issues of scarcity and abundance in North American history
  • 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

About the Author(s)

Donald Worster, Honorary Director of the Center for Ecological History, University of Remnin of China

Donald Worster is Honorary Director of the Center for Ecological History at the University of Remnin of China and Hall Distinguished Professor of American History Emeritus at the University of Kansas and. He is the author of many books, including A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir (OUP, 2008); Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930's (OUP, 2004); A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell (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).

Table of Contents

    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


"[R]emarkable. ... [A] brilliantly crafted discussion of the limits imposed by our natural reserves, combining historical analysis, economic development and political decision making. Worster has the rare ability to present complex ideas in an easily accessible manner. He fills his book with the stories of the people who brought us both riches as a society and a body of ideas we can use to make us healthy again." - Roger I. Abrams, New York Journal of Books

"One of our greatest environmental historians points out the thing we've done our best to ignore: that we live on a physical planet that comes with real limits. This intriguing volume is as much about our future as about our past." - Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth

"In Shrinking the Earth Donald Worster compellingly shows how exponential population growth has pushed the natural world to the very edge of what it can sustain. At the same time, he explains how North America got to its present state and offers essential historical perspective for those seeking to restore some balance to our distressed planet." - Paul R. Ehrlich, Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University

"Donald Worster is one of the most thoughtful of all environmental historians. In Shrinking the Earth he argues that age of abundance is over and that limits on natural resources will be an increasingly central reality of our collective future. It is a sweeping narrative, beautifully written and eminently readable, that has profound implications for how we think about our place in the world." - Peter Crane, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

"Shrinking the Earth is a book that will forever change the way we look at our world. It is as much a book about the future of humankind as it is about American history. A gripping and readable story of America's conquest of nature, it calls, with subtlety and urgency, for a new era in which humans will begin to understand the fragility of their environment and their role in preserving planet earth." - Christof Mauch, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU Munich

"Shrinking the Earth confirms Donald Worster's stature as our finest environmental historian. In this elegant, probing narrative, he shows how some Americans have gradually and grudgingly come to recognize that our natural resources are finite. And he rightly wonders whether this recognition has come to too few, too late. Like all Worster's books, this is a sobering, compelling, and finally freeiring read." - Jackson Lears, author of Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920

"A bracing, intelligent survey of wealth become immiseration, essential for students of environmental history." - Kirkus

"[Worster is] a fine, precise, and courageous author of the first order." - Kansas Alumni Magazine

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