SHiPS Resource Center ||   BOOK BRIEF

reviewed: 6/95 Watersheds: Classic Cases in Environmental Ethics. Lisa Newton and Catherine Dillingham. Wadsworth (1994). ISBN 0-534-21180-1. 249 pp.

If you've had trouble keeping up with news clippings on important environmental cases, this book assembles the main stories for you. Nine chapters address: Love Canal; Bhopal; Chernobyl; the Valdez oil spill; the spotted owl debate; Chico Mendes; the ozone hole; global warming; and the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. The cases are exceptionally well documented, and the authors draw out the different perspectives well.

The book is designed to raise questions about basic values, to expose problems of conflicting values and to promote discussion of basic ethical principles. There is a modest environmentalist bias, but there is no romanticism about nature or naivety about environmental problems. Logging of old growth forest is not inherently evil, in the authors' view, nor can Hooker Chemical be easily saddled with all responsibility for Love Canal--if indeed, there was a problem at all. At the same time, the authors are not easy on Union Carbide or Exxon--or the economies and consumers that support them. They pose penetrating questions--say, about the role of an energy-hungry citizen in supporting the oil industry that responds to that need with supertankers, or about international justice in the distribution of greenhouse gas emissions. The chapter-end questions are not rhetorical devices to set the environmentalists against the capitalists: the answers are not that simple. The problems are real. Our society has created them with its values. And we will have to resolve them, as well, by articulating our values collectively. The extensive relevant information in the book is a valuable resource.

Highly recommended as a teacher reference.

NOTE: An updated second edition has appeared since this review was written.

--Douglas Allchin

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