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The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy (Politics and the Environment) 1st Edition

1.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0313345043
ISBN-10: 031334504X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"For those wanting to think outside the square on climate change issues, this book is indispensable."-Bob Birrell, Director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University

"This is a provocative book. Many will disagree with its conclusions, but the dilemma it points to is real and cannot be ignored."-Dr. Katharine Betts, Associate Professor Sociology, Swinburne University of Technology

"The partnership of philosopher and ecologist Joseph Wayne Smith with emeritus professor of medicine David Shearman has produced an analysis that covers the gamut from governance in a liberal democracy to a treatise on banking institutions. The authors conclude that the environmental goods necessary to sustain civilization will collapse unless humanity's "loving marriage to economic growth" can be sundered."-Virginia Deane Abernethy, Emeritus Professor, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

"Arriving at a time when governments, corporations and consumers are bragging about their voluntary emission reduction steps, this book judges current and pending efforts as failures, and moves the discussion to the next phase. For conversion to sustainable societies, liberal democracy must give way to "a form of authoritarian government by experts" which the authors sketch out at the end. This is an argument-moving book, a fresh and audacious contribution to the climate change debate."-Otis L. Graham, University of California, Santa Barbara (Emeritus)

"Warnings of a pending environmental crisis are no longer the prerogative of solitary prophets. They now reflect the consensus of the scientific establishment. But how radical a change in established political thinking do they require of us? This volume makes a powerful case for the view that taking environmental crisis seriously implies a radical critique of democracy itself, and a willingness to accept government by qualified expertise rather than popular election. If political thinking at its best makes the pressing questions of the day an occasion to revisit cherished fundamentals, then this book qualifies."-Gordon Graham, Henry Luce III Professor of Philosophy and the Arts at Princeton Theological Seminar

Review

"For those wanting to think outside the square on climate change issues, this book is indispensable." (Bob Birrell, Director of the Centre for Population and Urban Research at Monash University)

"This is a provocative book. Many will disagree with its conclusions, but the dilemma it points to is real and cannot be ignored." (Dr. Katharine Betts, Associate Professor Sociology, Swinburne University of Technology)

"Warnings of a pending environmental crisis are no longer the prerogative of solitary prophets. They now reflect the consensus of the scientific establishment. But how radical a change in established political thinking do they require of us? This volume makes a powerful case for the view that taking environmental crisis seriously implies a radical critique of democracy itself, and a willingness to accept government by qualified expertise rather than popular election. If political thinking at its best makes the pressing questions of the day an occasion to revisit cherished fundamentals, then this book qualifies." (Gordon Graham, Henry Luce III Professor of Philosophy and the Arts at Princeton Theological Seminar)

"Arriving at a time when governments, corporations and consumers are bragging about their voluntary emission reduction steps, this book judges current and pending efforts as failures, and moves the discussion to the next phase. For conversion to sustainable societies, liberal democracy must give way to a form of authoritarian government by experts which the authors sketch out at the end. This is an argument-moving book, a fresh and audacious contribution to the climate change debate." (Otis L. Graham, University of California, Santa Barbara (Emeritus))

"The partnership of philosopher and ecologist Joseph Wayne Smith with emeritus professor of medicine David Shearman has produced an analysis that covers the gamut from governance in a liberal democracy to a treatise on banking institutions. The authors conclude that the environmental goods necessary to sustain civilization will collapse unless humanity's loving marriage to economic growth can be sundered." (Virginia Deane Abernethy, Emeritus Professor, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine)
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Product Details

  • Series: Politics and the Environment
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Praeger; 1 edition (August 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031334504X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0313345043
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.8 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 1.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,757,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Stephan Ortmann on June 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Written by a physician and a lawyer, this book wants to make a convincing argument that liberal democracy is dangerous to the survival of the environment. They instead advocate a technocracy, a state ruled by experts.

Their argument is very weak. At the onset, they acknowledge that authoritarian regimes have fared less well in terms of preserving the environment than democratic regimes. Still they find fault because democracy lacks the capability of long-term planning. The major problem behind their argument is the lack of analysis of the institutions of real existing states. Their definition of liberalism and democracy remains shallow throughout the book. They never answer the question why modern democracies have better environmental records than their authoritarian counterparts. They even refer to Switzerland in their critique even though that democratic country has one of the best environmental records in Europe.

Their alternative to a liberal democracy seems more like a mythical fairyland. It ignores the fact that people are generally motivated by egoistical demands. Humans are just not machines, who could rule a country as a benevolent leader in the best interest of the people. Authoritarian leaders around the world, furthermore, cannot ignore the demands of the people. They cannot act against their interest, especially not when it comes to economic growth. No authoritarian ruler, save in North Korea, can stop consumption.

If they, however, would want a North Korea type government for the world, I'd rather be dead!
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Format: Hardcover
On their title page:

"[T]he authors conclude that an authoritarian form of government is necessary, but this will be governance by experts and not by those who seek power."

This is hardly a new phenomenon. Karl Popper devoted one volume of the "Open Society and its Enemies" to Plato, whose vision of an ideal society was one ruled by disinterested philosopher kings. That sounds exactly like the above quote.

Popper correctly surmises that such a society would be a totalitarian nightmare.

In addition we have "the Road to Serfdom" by Hayak which identifies the danger of assuming society can be successfully run by expert planners. The prefect example of how that comes out is the former Soviet Union's central economic planning, which resulted in famines and poverty for the proles.

Just remember, the desire for power will, sooner or later, result in the experts, no matter how competent or sincere, being replaced by those who seek to game the system for their own ends. When that happens, we will see a totalitarian system, with totalitarian solutions.

Genocide, anyone? Sure would cut the ol' carbon footprint if you could just feed all those consumers and wrong-thinkers into the shredders...

"The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule." - H L Menken

Bottom line, the authors are no doubt sincere, but their solution is worse than the problem.
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Format: Hardcover
Professor David Shearman, MD, is Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Adelaide, and a Visiting Research Fellow at the University's Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences and Law School. Professor Shearman was an Assessor for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report and the Fourth Assessment Report. (1)

Shearman has penned several books on global warming, such as `Climate Change as a Crisis in World Civilization: Why We Must Totally Transform How We Live` and `The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy`. His argument is that overpopulation and industrialization are causing an ecological disaster which requires a total change of lifestyle for everyone on the planet. As democracy isn't up to the challenge, an authoritarian government must (obviously) be imposed to save us from ourselves.

Let's take a look at one of those books, 'The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy`, which Shearman co-authored with Joseph Wayne Smith. (2)

The book was written as part of a series sponsored by the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy. The Pell Center was established at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, by an Act of the United States Congress on September 28, 1996, to honor Democrat Senator Claiborne Pell. (3)

The introduction, by the director of the Pell Center, provides a handy summary of the argument contained in the book:

In short, Shearman and Smith argue that liberal democracy - considered sacrosanct in modern societies - is an impediment to finding ecologically sustainable solutions for the planet [intro. p.
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