Losing Ground

Losing Ground

American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century

By Mark Dowie





A recent history replete with compromise and capitulation has pushed a once promising and effective political movement to the brink of irrelevance. So states Mark Dowie in this provocative critique of the mainstream American environmental movement. Dowie, the prolific award-winning journalist who broke the stories on the Dalkon Shield and on the Ford Pinto, delivers an insightful, informative, and often damning account of the movement many historians and social commentators at one time expected to be this century's most significant. He unveils the inside stories behind American environmentalism's undeniable triumphs and its quite unnecessary failures. Dowie weaves a spellbinding tale, from the movement's conservationist origins as a handful of rich white men's hunting and fishing clubs, through its evolution in the 1960s and 1970s into a powerful political force that forged landmark environmental legislation, enforced with aggressive litigation, to the strategy of "third wave" political accommodation during the Reagan and Bush years that led to the evisceration of many earlier triumphs, up to today, where the first stirrings of a rejuvenated, angry, multicultural, and decidedly impolite movement for environmental justice provides new hope for the future. Dowie takes a fresh look at the formation of the American environmental imagination and examines its historical imperatives: the inspirations of Thoreau, the initiatives of John Muir and Bob Marshall, the enormous impact of Rachel Carson, the new ground broken by Earth Day in 1970, and the societal antagonists created in response that climaxed with the election of Ronald Reagan. He details the subsequent move toward polite, ineffectual activism by the mainstream environmental groups, characterized by successful fundraising efforts and wide public acceptance, and also by new alliances with corporate philanthropists and government bureaucrats, increased degradation of environmental quality, and alienation of grassroots support. Dowie concludes with an inspirational description of a noncompromising "fourth wave" of American environmentalism, which he predicts will crest early in the next century.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262041478 336 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262540841 336 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • Losing Ground is an ambitious and brave book. Mr. Dowie hasmarshaled an exceptionally broad array of facts and produced aprovocative explanation for why a once vibrant social movement isflagging....one of the truly important books on a genuinely Americansocial movement.

    New York Times Book Review

  • Perhaps the most interesting environmental book published yet thisyear.

    The Washington Times


  • In many ways, the future of the planet depends on the environmental movement figuring out the right blend of rage and reform. Mark Dowie argues passionately for a more democractic, and a more encompassing environmentalism; his reporting, particularly about the Clinton years, makes painfully clear the pitfalls of the current approach. Read this and think; or rather, re-think.

    Bill McKibben

    author of The End of Nature

  • Dowie's insight and commitment have lessons for all of us.

    Winona LaDuke

    Officer, Seventh Generation Fund Program

  • The conversation and environmental movements are in trouble. We compromise too readily; we rely more on lawyers and experts than on grassroots organizers; growing bureaucracy separates leaders of national groups farther and farther from activists in the field. Mark Dowie's Losing Ground is a vital part of the debate to restore and strengthen the conservation and environmental movements.

    Dave Foreman