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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Winter 2010
DOI: 10.5062/F4XS5S9V

Book Reviews

Historical Dictionary of Environmentalism

Melissa L. Gold
Science Librarian
Millersville University
Millersville, Pennsylvania

Copyright 2010, Melissa L. Gold. Used with permission.

Historical dictionary of environmentalism. Peter Dauvergne. Scarecrow Press, Lanham, Md., 2009. 336 pp. ISBN 0-8108-5804-5. $85.00

The Historical Dictionary of Environmentalism offers an introduction to the "global history of environmentalism" with emphasis on recent developments since the 1960s. To accomplish this task, the book introduces a wide range of issues, people, and organizations of importance. Concepts are examined from a political and/or philosophical perspective rather than a scientific one, due partly to the influence of author Peter Dauvergne, a professor of political science and Canada Research Chair in Global Environmental Politics at the University of British Columbia. Additionally, this title is No. 92 in the "Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies, and Movements" series.

This work contains five sections of interest to the reader with the main section being "The Dictionary" itself. The dictionary covers many issues (Renewable Energy), problems (Chlorofluorocarbons), disasters (Torrey Canyon), conferences (Convention on Wetlands), organizations (WWOOF), people (Ken Saro-Wiwa), and regions (Kenya) associated with environmentalism. Since the over 300 entries are listed alphabetically and cross-referenced, no index is included. Entries provide a concise explanation and history of each concept and frequently offer insight into the concept's global impact. Each entry is clear, contains minimal jargon, and is about a paragraph in length; those describing regions fill two to three pages.

Preceding the dictionary are three sections that add a great deal of value. The first is a list of acronyms and abbreviations relevant to environmentalism worldwide. This list would be handy for anyone new to environmentalism who does not wish to waste time scouring the Internet for obscure acronyms. The second section is a 19-page annotated chronology covering the period from 1601 until 2008. The entries provide a very brief (paragraph) summary of events for each year, in addition to useful analysis of the effects of significant legislation and organizations. An 18-page introduction by Dauvergne follows the chronology. This section provides a very brief history of environmentalism and divides it into four distinct categories for discussion. The introduction is easy to understand and provides context as well as worthwhile citations to influential work.

The last section of the book is the extensive bibliography (56 pages) with its own table of contents and introduction. The bibliography is divided into seven sections, including sections devoted entirely to "Directories, Reference Works, Statistics, and Journals" and "Internet Resources." The remaining sections correlate to subjects within environmentalism. For a reader unfamiliar with the literature on environmentalism, this is probably the most valuable section.

In all, the Historical Dictionary of Environmentalism does a good job of introducing a multidisciplinary and ever-changing topic. Undergraduates or general readers performing basic research would find the book quite useful. Dauvergne's descriptions are brief but substantive, and the bibliography provides the reader with abundant additional reading. For the environmentalism novice, the Dictionary may be an affordable alternative to a much more costly, albeit comprehensive, historical encyclopedia.

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