Mountain Lake Hotel places environmental book in rooms

August 31, 1999

Blacksburg, Va.-- Bruce Wallace, Virginia Tech Distinguished Professor of Biology Emeritus, has provided more than 90 free copies of his book, "The Environment: As I See It, Science Is Not Enough" (Elkhorn Press, 1998) to be placed in each room and cottage of the Mountain Lake Hotel.

"I don't want to replace the Gideon Bible," Wallace says. "I just want to give people something about the environment to read."

Wallace's gift came as a result of talks with Jeffrey Slack, executive director of the Wilderness Conservancy at Mountain Lake, which was looking for ways to give guests of the resort current information on environmental issues. "By making copies of your book available for our guests, you have helped us achieve a part of our mission and address a recent concern that was identified by the board of directors," Slack wrote to Wallace. Many guests, Slack said, "have stopped by my office and the front desk of the hotel to express their appreciation for our making the book available."

In addition, where most books have a warning from the publisher that they are copyrighted and that no portion can be reproduced, etc., Wallace's book tells readers just the opposite: " 'Permission is hereby granted for the publication of these essays either singly or in serial form by anyone'." Wallace asks only that the source of the essay be acknowledged and a copy of the re-published essay be sent to his publisher, Elkhorn Press in West Virginia.

Why would a world-renowned geneticist give away his essays and books? For Wallace, it is part of a life's mission: to get people to realize that saving the world's environment is going to take a lot more than technological advances and the work of a few. The underlying theme of Wallace's books is that the issues that threaten the world's environment are much too complex to be solved by a single discipline. He argues that we need to plan carefully and put into place an educational system that will make everyone a part of the solution to the problem.

Wallace has been trying to get that point across for many years. Back in 1990, when the Worldwatch Institute predicted that, if environmental excesses had not been curbed by 2030, economic and environmental conditions would spiral uncontrollably downward, Wallace initiated a series of Worldwatch Seminars at Virginia Tech that called attention to environmental issues for six years. He also helped put on two Symposia, one on Environmental Literacy and one on AIDS: The Modern Plague. In addition, he spearheaded the drive to get Virginia universities to endorse the Talloires Declaration calling for the education of students about environmental matters.

Wallace believes environmental issues cannot be separated from other issues and cannot be confined to specific locations in crisis, and he has written numerous essays and newspaper opinion pieces on the matter. In one article, Wallace likened the environmental warnings to a train whistle necessitating prudence in the behavior of those who can change the fate of the world.

Wallace has earned many awards, including a Senior U.S. Scientist Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and a Fulbright award to lecture in Egypt and Yugoslavia. He was an advisor to the U.S. Delegation at the First Conference on Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva and a member of the World Health Organization's Study Group on the Effect of Radiation on Human Heredity in Copenhagen. He has written several books on genetics.

"The Environment" is not a heavy scholarly book. However, Virginia Tech colleague Paul B. Siegel says, the essays "are thought provoking and sobering." Sections in the book cover topics ranging from "Our world, but why care?" to "On the inadequacy of education" to "The future." Wallace expresses the wish that all instructors "of all ranks and fields" would be told "to teach the bearing that their majors have on pressing environmental/societal issues."

Wallace wrote the book especially for high-school students and their parents. It is an attempt to get young people who "will be tomorrow's professional leaders" interested in environmental issues. "My hope," Wallace says in the book, "is that having seen the enormity, complexity, and social implications of environmental degradation, these youngsters and their parents will insist that colleges educate students with regard to these serious matters, not train them in the cosmetic arts."

Virginia Tech

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