Environmentalism

Briefly Noted: Frontier Greens

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In 1968 the first Whole Earth Catalog invoked the "power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested." Four decades later, a new wave of scholarship is exploring that publication's influence. On the heels of Fred Turner's 2006 book From Counterculture to Cyberculture, which examined the Catalog's connections to today's "digital utopianism," the cultural historian Andrew Kirk has published Counterculture Green (University Press of Kansas).

Kirk's topics range from space colonies to the origins of the PopTent. But his chief concern is the Catalog's pragmatic environmentalism, a mindset that rejects both heavy regulation and the romantic ideal of an untouched wilderness. Kirk identifies this attitude with the Western states—and with a "libertarian sensibility" that "blended the individualism and liberal social values of the counterculture with a traditionally western distrust of big government and centralized authority."