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A Moment on the Earth: The Coming Age of Environmental Optimism Paperback – March 1, 1996

3.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

This is a well-documented examination of the effects of human society on the global environment. Easterbrook's conclusion: Things are getting better, not worse. Not surprisingly, this book has generated considerable controversy in many circles of environmentalists and ecologists, and many of his arguments only apply to overly-developed nations. For example, he stumbles badly when dealing with tropical rainforests, completely ignoring the fact that clearcutting in tropical environments leads to essentially irreversible loss of soils and a sterile clay pan. But all in all, I recommend this book highly to everyone interested in the proper interpretation of long-term ecological trends. In my opinion, he is as often right as wrong, and habitual doomsday-sayers would do well to seriously consider and possibly adopt some of his positions on ecorealism.

From Publishers Weekly

Journalist Easterbrook's optimistic account of humanity's impact on the environment, in which he argues against ecological doomsayers.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (April 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140154515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140154511
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,152,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

I was born in Buffalo, New York, to parents who were naturalized Canadians. I'm a graduate of Colorado College and a lover of the Rocky Mountains region throughout North America. Because my wife was until recently as U.S. foreign service officer, I've lived in countries including Pakistan and Belgium. I wish there was still a little family-owned patisserie in walking distance from my house like there was in Brussels. My character flaw is that I watch too much football.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Easterbrook was a journalist who covered environmental topics. He grouped many together into 38 chapters within a sprawling 700 page book. This must have entailed a great deal of work. As a journalist, he writes in an accessible style. He likes to surprise; Easterbrook likes to argue real risks are often less compelling than made out to be. His generally optimistic outlook is sure to be disliked by some, because environmental issues rely at root on alarm.
Overall, the book contains some valuable perspectives and insights, though is of mixed quality. For instance, chapter 14 discusses chemical risks. Easterbrook mentions Alice Ottoboni's view that dose and exposure determine the body's responses to chemicals, regardless of whether the substance is synthetic or natural. He mentions the insights of Bruce Ames and Lois Gold that thousands of chemicals, natural and synthetic, are carcinogens. "Cancer risks from common foods are much greater than from synthetic chemicals for the simple reason that exposure to common foods and everyday activities is higher." Nonetheless Easterbrook offers his opinion that "zero toxic discharge will be the standard for developed nations." If all molecules are toxic at some dose, as they are, this prophecy seems odd,at variance with the cited teachings of Gold and Ottoboni. The environment is chemically complex, abounding with detectable pollutants at ultra low levels. In an eco-realistic vision, Easterbrook suggests "almost every pollution issue will be resolved." This optimistic prophecy is as implausible as it is unexplained.
Nonetheless, this is a useful book, because of breadth, accessibility, and some provocative perspectives. One such perspective is the humbling enormities of time and Natural forces. Set against these, our moments on earth are brief and our environmental impacts are sometimes less consequential than some fear them to be.
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By A Customer on January 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
I saw an earlier review that quoted Paul Ehrlich as saying that this book is filled with bad science and shoddy writing. Not that Ehrlich is in any position to talk. He predicted that widespread famine due to overpopulation would occur in 1975. Did it? No. In fact, Ehrlich made a bet with Julian Simon about 10 years ago that the price of every raw material would skyrocket within ten years. Paul Ehrlich lost the bet, as prices in almost every area went down. Folks, don't listen to Ehrlich. Get this. This is a good read.
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Format: Paperback
I have had this book on my shelf since shortly after it was published and finally took it down and have been reading it. Now, just over half way through I know I will be pleased to finish it, but it has been a mixed experience. As some earlier reviewers note, Easterbrook just flat out gets some facts wrong. He's not a scientist, so he does that journalist thing of reading a lot and thinking "Yeah, I get this," when he doesn't quite. This is most bothersome in the first third of the book, which is set aside to reviewing topics in environmental science and debunking the doomsday environmental perspective on them. Most of the time he is correct in his facts and seems credible, but sometimes his arguments just don't hold water.

But this is doesn't really injure his main point, which is that the environmental movement needs to stop crying wolf. Since the 1960s they have managed to win over the majority of the American public (perhaps even more so in western Europe), and Easterbrook feels that the public no longer needs to be frightened into supporting further environmental regulations. The battle is won; enough people see the wisdom of regulating industry and land use so that describing the real consequences of not protecting the environment is a better approach.

When he wrote this book in the mid 1990s Easterbrook was a climate change doubter. He has since revised his opinion; the evidence has won him over. His doubter stance is one of the many anachronisms in this book, but it also interesting to see how many of his predictions have been borne out. He was confident that renewable energy technologies would become cheap enough for wide adoption. That is more true with each passing month.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I like the approach of the author, which is broad-based and brings in data supporting different points of view. This allows me to make my own determination of the subject matter. This is in contrast to pieces which are obviously one-sided, and omit important facts which would weaken their position.I will still examine the one-sided pros and cons of different sources, as theyl have value, but it is a pleasure to read a balanced treatment.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a real eye opener and puts the entire environmental debate into a new perspective - that of nature. It is only man's conceit that leads us to believe the doom and gloomers who would have us running from our own shadows.

While constantly advising to do no harm, Easterbrook makes it clear, man is not the environment-destroying, earth-wrecking machine we have been told. Highly recommend if you want to be informed about global warming, CO2, species extinction and other eco issues.
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Format: Paperback
Easterbrook, while still maintaing a pro-environmental stance, points out the flaws of modern eco-philosophy. Anyone who feels they're a supporter of the movement should read the book.
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