The End of Nature, by Bill McKibben
The huge amount of media attention lavished upon this year’s celebration of Earth Day was foreshadowed in the earlier enthusiastic reception accorded Bill McKibben’s environmentalist tract, The End of Nature. Deeply flawed as it is, McKibben’s book is also the latest incarnation of what Edith Efron has called apocalyptic environmentalism, an impulse in which “spurious knowledge is . . . used to rationalize [the] expectation of catastrophe.”
The discourse of apocalyptics is generally overwrought and hysterical. In this limited sense McKibben, a young staff writer for the New Yorker, offers something of an exception to the rule. The End of Nature is in part a lyrical evocation of the joys of unspoiled nature, and only in part a jeremiad directed against mankind for despoiling the environment and endangering the lives of many species (our own included). McKibben writes, moreover, in a graceful and informal style. Yet his chief aim is clearly to frighten us with what he regards as the likely consequences of ozone depletion, acid rain, and—in particular—the greenhouse effect.
About the Author