Once there was cause for alarm about the environment, but no longer, claims Gregg Easterbrook; the greens can now go home. Not so.by Hugh Raven / August 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
Published in August 1997 issue of Prospect Magazine
It is hard not to be impressed by Gregg Easterbrook’s book, in all its elegant and learned 700-page gigantism. Here is a man with something to say and ample wherewithal to say it. It brims with confidence and pokes the environmentalist (like this one) firmly in the eye.
All the environmental problems you care to think of, and many you would rather not, are wheeled out and skilfully disembowelled; from the A of acid rain through biotechnology, chemical hazards, desertification, forest die-back and global warming, to the Z of a Dr Karl Zinsmeister’s obscure opinions on farming. But if you thought the patient was sick, be reassured. Examine the entrails and exult: be shown toxic waste dumps heaving with wildlife; radiation leaks which are safer than an X-ray; squadrons of spotted owls in woods where they are allegedly extinct; acid rain improving the breeding performance of trout; and air so pure, even in an LA gridlock, that our grandparents would gasp.
Not that there has been no abuse of the planet. The human is an intemperate and often ignorant animal, guilty of all manner of ecological misdemeanours during its short tenure of the world. But any sin humanity has committed against nature-or, with the exception of nuclear war, is yet capable of committing-is small beer compared to nature’s own slings and arrows and the earth’s self-inflicted wounds. Killer asteroid strikes, volcanic eruptions, tumultuous upheaval of the earth’s tectonic plates: all have wiped out thousands of species and brought rapid or even instantaneous environmental change. Yet life goes on. The earth is robust, able to laugh off the soundest thrashing with the largest cosmic stick.
If the line of argument sounds familiar, that is probably because it is-popularised by a small and clever group of right-wing journalists writing witty books about the red-green conspiracy. Easterbrook is certainly as readable as any. But just as you settle back to enjoy him a…