Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cities in the Wilderness

I have nearly finished reading Cities in the Wilderness: A New Vision of Land Use in America (Island Press), a collection of five essays book-ended by a prologue and epilogue by former Arizona governor and Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt.

I was initially interested in the book because Babbitt will be our featured interview in the next issue of Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments, due out March 5, 2006. Now, I am utterly fascinated, as it weaves together stories---in the manner of case studies but not nearly as dry---set in a historical context of federal, state, and local government "partnerships," seemingly by chance but more often carefully crafted, for environmental preservation. It's call is simple: There must be a federal presence, in the form of legislation, for large-scale preservation efforts: there must be a federal land use policy. Many of the laws already exist, such as the Endangered Species Act, but a more comprehensive, holistic effort is clearly needed. And such movement cannot wait until the current administration is gone, even if the Bush administration has done more to undo all environmental safeguards than any other presidency in our nation's history.

So the topic is intriguing, the stories are powerful, but more so: Babbitt's writing is surprisingly good. Readers at all levels will appreciate and be won over by his subtle eloquence and no-nonsense grace.

I'd go so far as to say that this book should be required reading not only for all lawmakers, but for all environmental advocates, property rights advocates, farmers, ranchers, miners, energy developers, and those interested in such: pretty much everyone with a stake or interest in land and water. That should probably be all of us.

It's a fairly quick read---only 288 pages, which includes plenty of references and other resources.

You will of course want to read the interview in Terrain.org's next issue, but don't wait until then to get this important book!

No comments: