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


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (March 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140154515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140154511
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #164,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.

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

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By F. R Anscombe on November 3, 2008
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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40 of 59 people found the following review helpful 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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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Buck on July 14, 2010
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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4 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 23, 1998
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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11 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
My sense from reading this book is neither that Easterbrook is a purposefully misleading, nor that he is particularly insightful. He is looking for an antitode to negativity that he seems to believe pervades the enrivonmental community.
But whether you agree with his perspective or not, the simple fact is he gets many facts completely wrong, and his arguments are logically flawed. A prime example is the arguments he makes against the need for having regulations on air quality: he points out that the air has gotten cleaner in the US over the last 30 years. Well, yes it has, but BECAUSE of the clean air act, not in spite of it.
There is no reason to be depressed about the environment, but nor is there any reason -- as Easterbrook would have us do -- to ignore it. If you want a balanced view, read the scientific literature, not the quasi-science of an naive journalist.
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22 of 47 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 7, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Let me quote Paul Erlich, a Stanford professor who is well-respected in the environmental community:

"A Moment on earth contains so many serious errors that it has spawned a virtual cottage industry among scientists trying to correct them. Typical were the comments of entomologist Jack Schultz of Pennsylvania State University: A Moment on the Earth "contains some of the most egregious cases of misunderstood, misstated, misinterpreted, and plainly incorrect 'science' writing I've ever encountered." Ecologist Thomas Lovejoy, Undersecretary for External Affairs at the Smithsonian Institution, wrote: "I was stunningly disappointed by the book's rambling prose and profusion of inconsistency and error." Physicist-ecologist John Harte of the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley, stated, "On far too many pages of this vexing book, I found examples of . . . misquoted and misinterpreted segments of scientists' writings, and of illogical thinking."

From Erhlich, Paul and Anne. Betrayal of Science and Reason: How Anti-Environmental Rhetoric Threatens Our Future. (Island Press: Washington, DC, 1996) Page 40.
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