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The environmental movement is such an integral part of our culture — and especially the culture of the Democratic Party — that we take its presence for granted. But as Dave Tegeder and Steve Noll explain in their book Ditch of Dreams, it has not always been so. The Democratic Party once endorsed grand schemes for economic development, the environmental consequences be damned (if they were even considered at all). And this book introduces us to the unexpected character of Richard Nixon, environmentalist. At its core, Ditch of Dreams:┬áThe Cross-Florida Barge Canal and the Struggle for Florida’s Future (University of Florida Press, 2009)┬átells the story of the transformation of twentieth-century American liberalism, the fracturing of the New Deal coalition, and the birth of the environmental movement. The Cross-Florida Barge Canal — an ambitious project to connect the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the Sunshine State with a man-made ditch — is the platform the authors use to explore these larger issues. Ditch of Dreams is not only highly readable, it’s still highly relevant as we struggle to balance the need for economic development with the imperative to preserve the natural world.

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