A Primer for Environmental Action in the ‘90s


Ah, the new year. Time to stop slapping preachy bumper stickers on your car’s rear end. Time to get into gear. Several new books claim to hold the game plan for activism--’90s-style.

“Act Now, Apologize Later,” by Sierra Club President Adam Werbach (Cliff Street Books, 307 pages, $25), is a primer for a renewed defense of the environment. Werbach, who is only 24, outlines five areas for stepped-up activism in the face of efforts to weaken environmental protection in the United States: He focuses on nature, youth, celebration, communication and community. “It’s time,” Werbach writes, “for environmentalists to care for the Bronx as much as they care for the Grand Canyon.”

In “Generation React: Activism for Beginners,” by Earth 2000 founder Danny Seo (Ballantine Books, 184 pages, $10.95), readers are encouraged to start their own activist groups. Seo, 19, founded Earth 2000 at the age of 12 to introduce his young peers to threats facing the environment. “Generation React” is a how-to handbook on starting a grass-roots group, raising funds, getting publicity, organizing boycotts and sparking protests.


“Generations Apart: Xers vs. Boomers vs. the Elderly,” edited by Richard D. Thau and Jay S. Heflin (Prometheus Books, 256 pages, $16.95), examines the possibility of generational warfare as we fight over the American economic pie. The book includes cross-generational essays by Slate editor Michael Kinsley, Generation X spokeswoman Heather Lamm and generational historians William Strauss and Neil Howe, among others. One of the main topics of discussion: What will happen when baby boomers retire en masse, draining Social Security and leaving Xers with the bill? Thau, founder of Third Millennium, a youth activist group based in New York, and Heflin, a writer, present a thick, detailed account of generational politics in the ‘90s.

In “Goodlife: Mastering the Art of Everyday Living” (Utne Reader Books, 268 pages, $14.95 plus $2 shipping and handling from the publisher, [612] 338-5040), the editors of the Utne Reader present a collection of everyday essays--from Dave Barry on sex to Calvin Trillin on calories (“and why they may not matter”) to E.J. Dionne on “Why Americans Hate Politics.”

Were things as complicated in the ‘60s as they are in the ‘90s? Generational warfare was over right and wrong, not Social Security. And art was something to be beheld in the moment, not analyzed ad nauseam. At least that’s how Andy Warhol said he wanted his art appreciated--in the here and now. But a new book challenges that notion. In “Andy Warhol, Poetry and Gossip in the 1960s,” by Reva Wolf (University of Chicago Press, 210 pages, $27.95), Warhol’s New York art world is recreated and reexamined, and Wolf finds that Warhol undoubtedly was influenced by the avant-garde poets, filmmakers and artists who surrounded him in his heyday.

“Disco Biscuits: New Fiction From the Chemical Generation,” edited by Sarah Champion (Sceptre, 300 pages, $16.95), is a British anthology of the current explosion of drug- and club-influenced grit-lit. Included is a story by the king of the genre, Irvine Welsh (author of “Trainspotting”). That there is enough fiction out there to compose an anthology, albeit a small one, is testament to the growing influence of nightclub culture, dance music and designer drugs.

“Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender,” edited by Sheila Whitely (Routledge, 353 pages, $19.99) anthologizes British scholarly essays on women in pop. Topics range from Riot Grrrls to the manly machinations of k.d. lang to women in music videos. The book as a whole examines the ways female pop stars shape society’s attitudes about women.

“Forrest J. Ackerman’s World of Science Fiction,” by Forrest J. Ackerman (General Publishing Group, 240 pages, $30), is a coffee-table romp through the twisted world of this collector, promoter and writer of sci-fi. Ackerman, who coined the term sci-fi and curated his own home science-fiction museum, takes readers through the history of literary and cinematic sci-fi with reams of photos to illustrate his life’s passion.


* D. James Romero reviews books on pop culture every four weeks. Next week: the current crop of magazines.