Synthesis/Regeneration 10   (Spring 1996)

Rhoda R. Gilman's (editor)
Ringing in the Wilderness: Selections from the North Country Anvil

reviewed by Dr. Frans C. Verhagen, New York City, Queens Green Party

Rhoda R. Gilman's (editor) Ringing in the Wilderness: Selections from the North Country Anvil, Holy Cow! Press, Duluth, 1996. 50 photos & line drawings, 380 pp, Paper, $14.95.

This publication of roughly 20 years social history of North Country alternative living reminded me of Mikhail Gorbachev's new book The Search for a New Beginning: Developing a New Civilization, which was inspired by the "State of the World Forum" in September 1995 in San Francisco. (An excerpt was printed in Noetic Sciences Review, Autumn edition, a publication that greatly contributes to green theoretical development, particularly in the area of eco-psychology.)

However different in many other aspects, both publications call for new values, a new synthesis, a new world view: one detailing the efforts of a network of some 60 people who are searching for those values by continuously publishing (at great difficulty and sacrifice) the grassroots magazine The North Country Anvil, the other analyzing the world stage and identifying the dysfunctional nature of western civilization, particularly as it is evidenced in the degradation or sometimes the destruction of the life-support systems and cycles of the planet.

States Gorbachev: "One of the paradoxes of the twentieth century is the gap between humankind's amazing technological achievements and the often deplorable state of the human spirit and human morality... we need to search for a new paradigm of development, based on those values and capable of leading us all toward a genuinely humanistic or, more precisely, humanistic-ecological culture of living."

The same sentiment is expressed by Maynard Kaufman in his article "Emerging Green Culture" (Anvil, Winter 1985-86 issue) that could be considered as one of the more sophisticated contributions in this publication. Adopting anthropologist Anthony Wallace's concept of "cultural distortion" evidenced in "psycho-dynamically regressive innovations" such as substance abuse, passivity and indolence, he also points to the fact that "this cultural crisis is reflected in the degradation of the natural environment." He describes the needed cultural transformation which is emerging in the four main green values of sustainability, participatory democracy, equity, and nonviolence. For decades these values have been advocated by the World Council of Churches in its search for sustainable, just and participatory societies.

Though as a bio-regional environmentalist I was most interested in discovering the environmental perspective and actions of the Anvil Magazine, which were most pronounced in section XII entitled "Listening to the Land," reading the other twelve categories in the anthology I came away with an impression of the diversity, the tenacity and the openness of the Anvil network of people in their search for new alternatives to the consumerist, militaristic, mechanistic, technologistic forces in American society.

I recommend the book particularly for those living in the North Country, American history students and media students. Though I personally would have liked an index, the table of contents and the well-written introductions to the dozen categories of selections by editor Rhoda Gilman could almost function as a substitute.

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