> Skip to content
  • Published: 8 February 2013
  • ISBN: 9780262518796
  • Imprint: MIT Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $40.00

Living Through the End of Nature

The Future of American Environmentalism



How environmentalism can reinvent itself in a postnature age: a proposal for navigating between naive naturalism and technological arrogance.Environmentalists have always worked to protect the wildness of nature but now must find a new direction. We have so tamed, colonized, and contaminated the natural world that safeguarding it from humans is no longer an option. Humanity's imprint is now everywhere and all efforts to “preserve” nature require extensive human intervention. At the same time, we are repeatedly told that there is no such thing as nature itself—only our own conceptions of it. One person's endangered species is another's dinner or source of income. In Living Through the End of Nature, Paul Wapner probes the meaning of environmentalism in a postnature age.
Wapner argues that we can neither go back to a preindustrial Elysium nor forward to a technological utopia. He proposes a third way that takes seriously the breached boundary between humans and nature and charts a co-evolutionary path in which environmentalists exploit the tension between naturalism and mastery to build a more sustainable, ecologically vibrant, and socially just world.
Beautifully written and thoughtfully argued, Living Through the End of Nature provides a powerful vision for environmentalism's future

  • Published: 8 February 2013
  • ISBN: 9780262518796
  • Imprint: MIT Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $40.00

Praise for Living Through the End of Nature

In this insightful and well-structured book, Wapner points clearly to the dilemmas and difficulties in modern environmentalism. To survive and succeed, it has had to draw boundaries between good and evil, right and wrong, and humans and nature. Yet it is these very borders that have led to polarised dreams of naturalism and mastery. The truth is that there is no such thing as a single environmentalist movement—it is highly variegated. It will have to find a way into, as Wapner puts it, a 'postnature age'.—Jules Pretty, Times Higher Education— Wapner is right: environmentalists have to adjust to a world without pristine nature. And once they do, they are bound to invent environmental techniques that go beyond creating protected areas. In future, the wilderness may be less wild, but our cities, suburbs, farms and industrial sites will be wilder. —Emma Marris, Nature— Wapner's book is the most sophisticated analysis of the theoretical issues underlying contemporary environmentalism yet written. In easily accessible language, Wapner unveils some of the contradictions facing environmentalism. For example, he shows that while environmentalism 'wants to preserve, conserve, and sustain the more-than-human realm, which involves minimizing our presence, reducing our footprint, and otherwise restraining our interventions,' it is also 'realizing that this cannot be done without extreme intrusion using some of the most sophisticated technologies and managerial types of control'...[His] 'middle path' involves a set of principles to inform environmentalist policies and a spiritual consciousness that requires mindfulness, heartfulness, a respect for the wildness both within nature and within ourselves, and a willingness to accept our state of not fully knowing how to maintain our awareness of the deep mysteries that abide both inside and outside ourselves—mysteries 'whose wildness is crucial to maintaining our own sense of well-being along with that of the world.' —Tikkun Magazine

Related titles