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Fifty Key Thinkers on the Environment
Joy A. Palmer, Editor; David E. Cooper and Peter Blaze Corcoran, Advisory Editors
New York: Routledge, 2001
320 pp., $18.95, paper;
$75.00, hardback

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Fifty Key Thinkers on the Environment is a guide to environmental thinking through the ages. The editor of the collection has brought together thirty-five contributors to analyze the ideas of fifty great thinkers and relate their philosophical ideals to environmental issues. The thinkers read as a "who's who" of major philosophical, political, and/or religion leaders of the ages, including Buddha, Saint Francis of Assisi, and Karl Marx. Readers who already have a grounding in environmental thinking will find more commonly quoted thinkers including John Muir, Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, and Vandana Shiva.

The most fascinating aspect of this collection is when a great thinker/activist such as Mahatma Gandhi has his major ideals taken from a political and religious context, and layered onto environmental issues. The author writes, "Gandhi's importance as an environmental thinker may be marked in terms of the strategies and vistas opened up by his pursuits, both public and private, towards a sustained animal and environmental liberation struggle. Looked at another way, Gandhi's environmental thinking is rooted in his larger philosophical and moral thinking" (p.161).

As a Ph.D. student in Environmental Education, I find this collection to be useful for a variety of reasons. One dilemma of obtaining a higher education degree, not at all unique to many graduate students of today, is that when we have reached the end of course requirements, we will have taken few, if any, philosophy courses, even though we graduate holding a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Environmental educators and audiences will find this collection to be a tool that establishes foundations set forth by these philosophers and their influences upon issues relating to and with the environmental in its totality.

This collection would be useful to environmental educators in advanced high school classes and college courses. It serves as an introduction to the great thinkers, with each chapter containing a biography of the person, excerpts from their written work, and a short (5-7 page) analysis of their concepts relating to the environment.

The editor of the collection, Joy Palmer, writes, "This book is intended to be a valuable resource for readers with an interest in 'influential lives' relating to critical thinking and action which has influenced the environmental movement, and in the intellectual history of environmental philosophy and related fields." I can't help but think about the words of Buddhist philosopher Thich Nhat Hanh and when he speaks of mindfulness and the connection of thought and action. For me, a thought without an action is incomplete, while ideals followed by action holds utility and value in all of our educational endeavors. One of the founding principals of Environment Education is where theory meets praxis and Fifty Thinkers introduces a reader to those possibilities.

-Frances Ortega

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