The Nature of Being Human : from Environmentalism to Consciousness


Publishers Weekly, 4/13/2009

The Nature of Being Human: From Environmentalism to Consciousness
Harold Fromm. Johns Hopkins Univ., $35 (304p) ISBN 9780801891298
This essay collection, updated with contextualizing commentary, covers three decades of work from environmental studies pioneer Fromm (Academic Capitalism and Literary Value). His seminal 1976 article, “On Being Polluted,” describes his move from New York City to Indiana (for a teaching post at Indiana University), where emissions from local steel mills inflicted malaise and “alterations of consciousness” on Fromm and his wife. Though many at the university disapproved, Fromm became a standard-bearer for the growing environmental movement that challenged the community's major employer. Inspired by Cheryll Glotfelty's “literary-environmental writings” in 1989, Fromm organized the Modern Language Association's first ecocriticism project. This launched the second phase of his career, in which he turned a critical eye on environmentalists and the reification of nature (“natural beauty” as a “self-presenting absolute,” etc.). Fromm's contrarian view is explored beautifully in “Ecology and Ecstasy on Interstate 80,” declaring that “everything human is technological” while driving through the Sierras. The closing essays examine more esoteric issues of free will and social evolution. Fans of nature writing will find Fromm's travels witty and engaging, and his analysis unblemished by typical academic pretention or abstraction. (Apr.)


The Midwest Book Review [July 2009]

The Nature of Being Human
Harold Fromm
Johns Hopkins University Press
2715 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218-4363
0801891299, $35.00

THE NATURE OF BEING HUMAN: FROM ENVIRONMENTALISM TO CONSCIOUSNESS provides a strong psychosocial analysis of the relationship between the natural world and individuals. How human consciousness is determined by the environment and questions of nature and ecology are all issues considered in chapters arguing for a naturalistic vision of free will and the arts. College-level holdings strong in social science and the humanities will find it perfect for classroom discussion and debate.


Southwestern American Literature; Spring 2009, Vol. 34 Issue 2, p104-106, 3p, 1 bw


Review by Robert M. Davis



Sierra Club notice



Organic Gardener • January/February 2010

[an Australian magazine]


The Nature of Being Human

Harold Fromm

The John Hopkins University Press

(distributed by Footprint Books)

Hardcover, 288 pages, $66

The earliest in this collection of essays

by US academic Fromm dates back to

1976. It was written after he moved

to a small farm near Chicago, only to

have his health devastated by pollution

from oil refineries 25 kilometres away.

Fromm’s journey from victim, to

campaigner, to pioneer of eco-criticism

(that is, the study of literature from an

ecological viewpoint) is documented

here, alongside challenging analyses

of man’s place in nature, free will, our

relationship with technology and more.

Scholarly but engaging, Fromm is an

environmentalist, but also a realist.

      Simon Webster



From CHOICE, October 2009


Science & Technology \ Biology \ General

Fromm, Harold.  The nature of being human: from environmentalism to consciousness.  Johns Hopkins, 2009.  299p bibl index afp ISBN 0-8018-9129-9, $35.00; ISBN 9780801891298, $35.00. Reviewed in 2009oct CHOICE.

Fromm, an erudite, prolific author of numerous works ranging from ecocritical commentary to self-reflective discourses, presents a compilation of essays that illuminate his views regarding why most Americans seem oblivious to the destruction of their environment. The essays in the 23-chapter book cover three broad areas: ecology, nature/evolution, and consciousness. The author's personal discourses, primarily experiences with pollution, contribute to his observations of the insidious deterioration of the environment. Fromm also presents a complex, densely written discussion on the relationship between materiality (physical person who ostensibly believes in free will and decision making derived from experience) and consciousness (defined by neuroscience as directed by neurons and synapses that are self-directing, deterministic systems). He illuminates the connection between these seemingly disparate topics by revealing the shift in his reflective analytical thoughts across several decades. Essentially his perspective is an evolved conclusion that the humanities, his primary academic background, are seriously flawed in light of the implications of environmental events. He further indicates that this discipline is failing to even consider the implications of what science is reporting about how free-will humans function as they do. Because of the scope of material presented, this volume likely will be fully appreciated only by advanced academic/professional audiences. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students and above. -- M. Evans, emeritus, SUNY Empire State College

Francisco Ayala in

The Evolutionary Review, volume 1, SUNY Press, 2010


. . . There is much to appreciate in Fromm’s four chapters on “consciousness,” my criticisms not withstanding. I enjoyed these chapters as well as all the others. Fromm’s prose is beautiful, his environmental concerns are real and vividly conveyed, and his put-down of the literary critics of scientific knowledge as a social construction is, in the opinion of this reviewer, justified and effective. The Nature of Being Human is a good read—enjoyable and instructive.



                        FROM: THE BRITISH SOCIETY FOR LITERATURE AND SCIENCE (Click for complete review.)

“The Nature of Being Human is a lively, opinionated, impressively learned and always readable contribution to the current debate on the human and natural costs of the dogma of ‘progress’.”

Roger Ebbatson, University of Worcester




                        Review by Glen Love in ISLE 17.2 (Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment)

                   Spring 2010

                   In a very personal sense, Harold Fromm came by his latent

environmental consciousness in the truest neo-Darwinian way,

through the body, as a victim of home-grown American industrial air



Review by Piers H. G. Stephens, Dept. of Philosophy, University of Georgia

 in Organization and Environment, December 2010.


This is a meaty, intelligent, and well-considered reading of The Nature of Being Human.



Review by Simon Appolloni (Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture: volume 6.1, 2012)


“This book is the philosophical product of a journey of ‘jolts’ for Harold Fromm, author

of numerous writings on the environment, academia, and the self. . . .”



Review by Greg Garrard ( Oxford Journals, Humanities, Year's Work Critical and Cultural Theory, Volume 19, Issue 1, Pp. 46-82)