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Geographer Bret Wallach's stated goal in this book is to show that environmentalism is rooted in a fundamental human love for the land. He argues that we are "at odds with progress" and that this aversion is illustrated through efforts to protect the land from exploitation. But, .Wallach argues, our loyalty to the land is cloaked in "disguises" of efficiency, social welfare, and scientific ecology.
This argument is pursued through a series of personal reflections on places: northern Maine, southern Appalachia, Wyoming desert, San Joaquin oil fields, the national grasslands, and Texas High Plains. Wallach obviously loves these lands, and feels them threatened by the free market's insatiable yearning for profits and an industrial imperative which he says override other human values. Though Wallach paints stereotypical pictures of corporate profiteers arrayed against "conservationist farmers," the argument rings true as he describes how American conservationists like Pinchot clothed a deep loyalty to the land in a pragmatic gospel of efficiency, social welfare, or, more recently, ecological balance. This sort of dissonance among beliefs and values probably affects most resource managers, who gravitate to professions in touch with the natural world only to find that they must cloak their environmental ethics in practical terms to make bureaucratic headway.