Visionary quests to return to the Garden of Eden have shaped Western culture from Columbus' voyages to today's tropical island retreats. Few narratives are so powerful - and, as Carolyn Merchant shows, so misguided and destructive - as the dream of recapturing a lost paradise.
A sweeping account of these quixotic endeavors by one of America's leading environmentalists, "Reinventing Eden" traces the idea of rebuilding the primeval garden from its origins to its latest incarnations in shopping malls, theme parks and gated communities. With eloquence and insight, Merchant shows how the drive to conquer nature and to explore and settle the globe, springs from this utopian pastoral impulse throughout Western history. Time and again, human manipulation of the environment is our downfall: Eden is achieved by fencing off pristine beauty in national parks and wildlife preserves, while leaving the majority of the earth in ruins.
Challenging both narratives, Merchant argues that the green veneer of city-park conservation has become a cover for the corruption of the earth and the neglect of its environment. "Reinventing Eden" is a bold new way to think about the earth that includes green political parties, sustainable development and a partnership between humans and earth that is nothing short of an ecological revolution.