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Inside the Environmental Movement: Meeting the Leadership Challenge.

Inside the Environmental Movement: Meeting the Leadership Challenge, by Donald Snow. Island Press, Box 7, Covelo, CA 95428 (1992). 295 pp. Hardcover $34.95; softcover $19.95.

While most conservation groups felt they were under constant attack during the Reagan years, the mainstream of the environmental movement did come to realize that it had no concept more powerful than the capitalist system.

The collapse of communism and the revelation of environmental destruction showed that environmentalists would have to work within a system whose theory was less idealistic but certainly more practical. Terms like "sustainable development" began to replace blanket condemnations of all development. User fees and tradable air pollution rights became acceptable solutions instead of curses. This book is a set of recommendations for how environmental groups can operate in the professional manner necessary to maintain influence and respect in American society.

An early part of this change in the environmental movement was the rounding of the Conservation Fund in 1985. The Fund, created to find common ground for the private sector and government, used questionnaires and in-depth interviews to assess the training and operations of conservation groups. If the findings discussed in this book are heeded, they could be part of an important reformation in citizen activism.

The Fund's Conservation Leadership Project found exceptional leaders running organizations severely handicapped by '"xenophobia and internecine strife," and spending a scant 25 percent of their time on programs and projects. Leaders of conservation groups liked their new professional staff members, but even these biased evaluators gave the newcomers the lowest grades in knowledge of conservation history, science, and environmental policy. Their highest grades came in public relations. One could conclude that many conservationists talk and write in fluent ignorance.

The author does not aim to shame conservation organizations but takes a pragmatic look at their problems. The book's foreword points out that the Conservation Fund's investigation found that "the leaders and managers needed for the future represented a new profession for which there was no established training, no university curriculum, no career path, and few standards. In short, we had ignored development of our most important asset-- human capital."

The book ends with advice for academia, conservation groups, and funding sources but leaves the specifics up to the implementors. That means the hardest work is yet to be done, and success depends on these audiences understanding that on the way to solving the world's environmental problems, the first society that must be transformed is their own.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Kaufman, Wallace
Publication:American Forests
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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