Environment: Signs of Vitality

War, recession, urban decay, pollution—most Americans would judge these to be gloomy times. Not John Fischer, 65, the former editor of Harper's magazine and author of its "Easy Chair" column. In his new book, Vital Signs, U.S.A. (Harper & Row; $8.95), he takes an unfashionably optimistic view. He acknowledges the crumbling of old, familiar forms of government—institutions unable to control haphazard growth and its attendant environmental ills. But rising in their place, Fischer found in his travels through the nation, is a surprising number of brand-new forms of government designed to cope with precisely these problems. This largely unnoticed development, he...

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