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Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit Paperback – October 31, 2006


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What's most inspiring about Earth in the Balance is who wrote it. It's a big deal, after all, that a sitting senator was willing to write, "We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization." And that's not all. In his 1992 book, Al Gore also wrote:
I have become very impatient with my own tendency to put a finger to the political winds and proceed cautiously.... [E]very time I pause to consider whether I have gone too far out on a limb, I look at the new facts [on the environment crisis] that continue to pour in from around the world and conclude that I have not gone far enough.... [T]he time has long since come to take more political risks--and endure more political criticism--by proposing tougher, more effective solutions and fighting hard for their enactments.

And the buzz on the street is that Gore actually wrote those words himself.

When Earth in the Balance first came out, it caused quite a stir--and for good reason. It convincingly makes the case that a crisis of epidemic proportions is nearly upon us and that if the world doesn't get its act together soon and agree to some kind of "Global Marshall Plan" to protect the environment, we're all up a polluted creek without a paddle. Myriad plagues are upon us, but the worst include the loss of biodiversity, the depletion of the ozone layer, the slash-and-burn destruction of rainforests, and the onset of global warming. None of this is new, of course, nor was it new in 1992. But most environmentalists will still get a giddy feeling reading such a call to action as written by a prominent politician.

The book is arranged into three sections: the first describes the plagues; the second looks at how we got ourselves into this mess; and the final chapters present ways out. Gore gets his points across in a serviceable way, though he could have benefited from a firmer editor's hand; at times the analogies are arcane and the pacing is odd--kind of like a Gore speech that climaxes at weird points and then sinks just as the audience is about to clap. Still, at the end you understand what's been said. Gore believes that if we apply some American ingenuity, the twin engines of democracy and capitalism can be rigged to help us stabilize world population growth, spread social justice, boost education levels, create environmentally appropriate technologies, and negotiate international agreements to bring us back from the brink. For example, a worldwide shift to clean, renewable energy sources would create huge economic opportunities for companies large and small to design, build, and maintain solar panels, wind turbines, fuel cells, and other ecofriendly innovations.

Gore doesn't mince words when describing just how hard it will be to get out of this jam. Real hope is contingent on a swelling up of concern among the public--and fast. A year into the vice presidency, in an interview with writer Bill McKibben, Gore paraphrased a key passage in his book, "The minimum that is scientifically necessary far exceeds the maximum that is politically feasible." Ah, a political out. Some readers will ask of Gore: what has he done since publishing his book to advance the political feasibility of decisive environmental action? --Chip Giller --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Vice President-elect Gore explains the necessity of enviromentalism and offers bold initiatives for change in this thoughtful, compelling primer, a QPB selection and PW bestseller. Illustrations.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 407 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books (October 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594866376
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594866371
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #388,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Former Vice President Al Gore is co-founder and chairman of Generation Investment Management. He is also a senior partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and a member of Apple, Inc.'s board of directors.

Gore spends the majority of his time as chairman of The Climate Reality Project, a non-profit devoted to solving the Climate Crisis.

Gore was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976, 1978, 1980 and 1982 and the U.S. Senate in 1984 and 1990. He was inaugurated as the forty-fifth Vice President of the United States on January 20, 1993, and served eight years. During the Administration, Gore was a central member of President Clinton's economic team. He served as President of the Senate, a Cabinet member, a member of the National Security Council and as the leader of a wide range of Administration initiatives.

He is the author of the bestsellers Earth in the Balance, An Inconvenient Truth, The Assault on Reason, and Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis. He is the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary and is the co-recipient, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for "informing the world of the dangers posed by climate change."

Customer Reviews

This is the most important and the best book I have read in a long time.
Jasper
The ideas that Gore does talk about in his book are all based on panic and hysteria, and not rational science and logic.
James Duckworth IV
I found it an enjoyable read and showed me that Al Gore will think like a leader.
Jeffrey Leeper

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By MMH on March 12, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
We are burdening our fragile environment with waste and tearing it apart to acquire, always, more we than we need. In one lifetime even I have seen the detrimental effects of our careless use of resources and disregard for the fragility of the earth. This book is a wake up call for those who will listen, a call coming barely in time, if not already too late. This book is comprehensive, but clearly comprehensible.....an absolutely gripping read.
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36 of 51 people found the following review helpful By GreenPeaceOxfam on November 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
This work sets an incredible standard for what the overprivileged and uninitiated might call "alarmist" environmental literature. It is a definitive work that comprehensively addresses the state of the environment, tracing its historical aspects and examining its societal dynamics, even to the level of modern psychotherapeutic psychology. He is meticulous in presenting the facts and images without veering into untenable predictions of non-essential disasters, as plagued Paul Ehrlich's early books. He refers carefully to scientific information, and the unavoidable consequences of foreseeable conditions. Global climate change, for example, will likely make some areas uninhabitable. Gore makes a profound analogy by incively comparing the tragic environmental situation with the unprecedented nature of the nuclear arms race, citing how it has changed from a "fight- to a process of destruction." Industrial civilization and world ecology have reached a similar stage, he indicates.

His solutions are strong given his level of perception and analysis as a government policymaker. They are not much good for rapid change, however, or for grassroots action. While health food stores already existed back in 1992, it is amazing to witness how many efforts have lead to more sustainable products since then. Unfortunately, the green business trend is new, and, perhaps protectively, he appears to leave out any significant mention of environmentalists and entrepreneurial efforts, especially the initiating of Greenpeace by its Sierra Club founders, health food stores and food cooperatives, Anita Roddick and the Body Shop, and Greenpeace's promotion of non-chlorine bleaching techniques.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Brian Miller on January 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
I am unsure what frightened me more, the ominious environmental facts presented in this book or the dangerous impermeability of several Amazon reviewers. If one enters this book with an open mind, the result will be a re-evaluation of how one relates to the natural world. Gore is not pushing for the destruction of the American economy but instead a more fair juxtaposition of today's benfits versus future consequences. For someone to curse this book without even remote heed to what it states scares the living daylights out of me. I am not saying this book should be converted into American policy verbatim. However, if we do not use the knowledge and experience of this book as part of an international effort to achieve balance between the present and the future, then we are in trouble. Or let me rephrase that, our kids are in trouble.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leeper on November 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
When reading this book (and listening to Al Gore speak), I see that he is an intelligent man and has done quite a bit of research. I know he was a journalist, but you wouldn't think it by reading this book.
I felt he had a lot of good ideas. The idea of a new form of the Marshall Plan to help guide the world to more environmentally safe commerce and production was great. Some of his plans, although simplistic at times, make a lot of sense. Many of the ideas he gives are ones that are still being debated today (like trading clean air credits).
When I noticed that this was written in 1992/1993 when he was first running as the vice president, I was suprised. It is not often that a politician will make such pro-environment and long-reaching statements if they are trying to get elected. He also used the book to take punches at former President Bush. I am sure he had more than one goal with this book.
I mention that it was not well-written. This is because many of his analogies make no sense. His comparison of parallel computing with democracy, although a bit more understandable, left me wondering why he brought it up. The book could use some tightening up.
He brought a bit of spirituality into the text, but not a lot. I am assuming that he targeted the average American for this book which would explain his language and his constant use of metaphors and analogies. Unfortunately, they don't always work and people may wonder why he is telling them about the scientific study of the sandpile.
I found it an enjoyable read and showed me that Al Gore will think like a leader. He will not always (he is a politician) choose the best path for the future and not the best path for the present.
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71 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Lon Grabowski on October 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have read this book two and a half times - during the 1992 and 1996 elections and am reading it currently - and have found it fascinating each time. Al Gore seems to truly understand the environmental issue to a depth that is shocking to find in a politician. Common criticisms of the book include:
1. It is dully written - This is true to some extent. If I were not fascinated by the subject I may have found it rough going. This is the reason it gets 4 stars rather than 5 from me.
2. That the facts stated are unsupported - Balderdash. The book is not foot-noted like an academic monograph because it is not an academic monograph - it is a "popular science" book much like Carl Sagan's work or Isaac Asimov's nonfiction. Sources are frequently mentioned within the text and the figure captions. Add this to the copious chapter notes and bibliography and his sources are well credited.
3. Current Science doses not back up the text - Fully answering this would mean writing another book, but, for example, I have yet to see a reputable atmospheric scientist outside the pay of conservative think tanks deny the existence of the global warming phenomenon anymore. Gore simply researched this book to death and got the science right.
4. An excuse for more big government - Yes, some more environmental regulation would be necessary to forward the Vice-President's goals - current corporate structure is not at all conducive to putting the good of the world ahead of the bottom line no matter how small the sacrifice is. On the other hand, Al Gore was one of the first proponents of free-market solutions too, such as transferable carbon-emission credits.
All in all, a very good if not great book.
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