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Gonzo Environmentalism

A radical journalist reports the state of the planet

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If you're a middle-of the-road type who insists on reporting that's "fair and balanced," then Jeffrey St. Clair's Born Under a Bad Sky: Notes from the Dark Side of the Earth (AK Press, 460 pp., $19.95) is not the environmental book for you. An investigative journalist of the muckraking variety and co-editor of the radical online journal Counterpunch, St. Clair is a fierce advocate for the wild Earth and a frank enemy of corporate greed and political compromise. He writes in the book's introduction that "the destruction of the wild sparks militancy in the heart," and his own militancy informs the collection of journalism, memoir and jeremiad that follows.

The book is alternately bitter and funny, with none of the earnest, fretful tone that afflicts much environmental writing. St. Clair knows who the villains are and he takes joy in calling them out. Big oil, the nuclear industry and the timber companies are predictable targets, but he also goes after mainstream environmental groups like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council, whom he regards as sell-outs. He rakes Clinton and Gore over the coals at least as ruthlessly as he does the Republicans.

For all his rage, St. Clair never loses touch with what he calls "the green fires that burn in my soul." The litany of eco-crimes that takes up the first two-thirds of the book is followed by a pair of long, beautifully written accounts of rafting on Western rivers. St. Clair is angry but never cynical, and his writing is a brisk antidote to the mainstream media's mix of environmental fearmongers and naysayers.

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