3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Important with soft solutions,
This review is from: The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans (Hardcover)
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I believe everyone interested in climate change and other environmental issues concerning man's impact on the Earth should read this book and have it in their library. The nine topics covered are 1. Biodiversity, 2. Climate change, 3. Nitrogen (fertilizers), 4. Land use, 5. Freshwater, 6. Toxics, 7. Aerosols, 8. Ocean acification, and 9. Ozone. The author does an excellent job of summarizing in good detail and with ample reference to the scientific literature. Many of these are related of course but do deserve individual treatment. All involve essential aspects of the Earth's natural resources which, if pushed too hard, will cross "boundaries" from which recovery may not be possible; some call these tipping points. An 'event horizon' for the environment, so to speak. The amount of damage we have done to the planet in all these areas is so dramatic that many scientists feel we have entered the 'anthropocene era', an extinction event which will be recorded in the gological history along with the Permian and K-T boundary extinctions.
The author's contention is that in theory all are manageable. He chastizes environmentalists and denialist equally hard, and in many cases I believe correctly. But there are issues which I disagree with the author and I do not thnk he has presented all concerns. Nuclear power does in fact have enormous positives in that nuclear greatly reduces the burning coal. However he down plays the accomanying risks. Nuclear accidents, Chenobyl or Fukushima, are low risk, high impact events. When it goes wrong, it goes wrong very badly. The impact of the enormous radiation contamination of the ocean at Fukushima simply cannot be evaluated at this time, so cannot be dismissed without concern. While I agree that keeping existing nuclear plants running, the need to support other sustainable power sources is much more important than the author suggests. Nuclear can only be an interim 'solution'. Given the working life of a nuclear power plant is only a few decades and the number that would need to be newly constructed on the same temporal schedule, is unacceptable.
My main concern is that many of the boundaries are not well defined. Some like the target boundary for carbon dioxide (350ppm) are well accepted, others such as chemical pollution are not defined at all. Undefined boundaries simply cannot be managed. The current atmosphere in the US is hugely against any realistic possibility change. It is reassuring that Europe and even China are taking these risks much more seriously.
Everyone concerned about the future of the Earth, and why so many consider that we now live in the 'anthropocene era', should read this book. Five stars because of the importance of the well documented issues. I thought of giving only 4 stars because many of the authors solutions are soft (but optimistic), but the astute reader will be able to evaluate the author's solutions.
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Initial post: Nov 5, 2011 12:15:11 PM PDT
T. Stroll says:
Good review. I first heard of Mr. Lynas this morning (Nov. 5, 2011), when I heard him on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's "Quirks and Quarks" science radio program. It was one of the most interesting "Quirks and Quarks" interviews that I've heard. Mr. Lynas gave the impression of having a fine analytical mind and I look forward to reading his book.
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