Development or conservation? Douglas Brinkley traces the debate over Alaska's riches.
In The Quiet World, historian Douglas Brinkley pens an epic about America’s Far North – you know, the place Sarah Palin is from. But just as book covers can sometimes be misleading, so, too, are subtitles, and the subtitle for Brinkley’s volume is: “Saving Alaska’s Wilderness Kingdom, 1879-1960.”
Based on that description, a reader might expect a backward-looking narrative, long on soporific tree-hugger reflection and short on contemporary relevance.
Instead, “The Quiet World” is an homage to the wisdom of recent ancestors – avowed capitalists and preservationists – who fought for restraint against brazen attempts to conquer nature. And that is precisely what makes this book a poignant cautionary tale for policymakers considering quick get-rich fixes to long-term problems with ecological implications.
In 2010, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge celebrated its 50th anniversary. Dramatic 20th-century events leading up to the sanctuary being created in 1960 represent a crescendo in Brinkley’s plot development over nearly 600 pages.
But despite that landmark victory half a century ago, no protection is permanent. Soon debates will start anew on Capitol Hill as lawmakers decide again whether to allow oil and gas companies to invade the refuge premises.
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