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Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All Hardcover – Illustrated, June 30, 2020
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“Environmental issues are frequently confused by conflicting and often extreme views, with both sides fueled to some degree by ideological biases, ignorance and misconceptions. Michael Shellenberger’s balanced and refreshing book delves deeply into a range of environmental issues and exposes misrepresentations by scientists, one-sided distortions by environmental organizations, and biases driven by financial interests. His conclusions are supported by examples, cogent and convincing arguments, facts and source documentation. Apocalypse Never may well be the most important book on the environment ever written.” (Tom Wigley, climate scientist, University of Adelaide, former senior scientist National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS))
“We must protect the planet, but how? Some strands of the environmental movement have locked themselves into a narrative of sin and doom that is counterproductive, anti-human, and not terribly scientific. Shellenberger advocates a more constructive environmentalism that faces our wicked problems and shows what we have to do to solve them.” (Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of Enlightenment Now)
"If there is one thing that we have learned from the coronavirus pandemic, it is that strong passions and polarized politics lead to distortions of science, bad policy, and potentially vast, needless suffering. Are we making the same mistakes with environmental policies? I have long known Michael Shellenberger to be a bold, innovative, and nonpartisan pragmatist. He is a lover of the natural world whose main moral commitment is to figure out what will actually work to safeguard it. If you share that mission, you must read Apocalypse Never.” (Jonathan Haidt, author of Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion)
"The painfully slow global response to human-caused climate change is usually blamed on the political right’s climate change denial and love affair with fossil fuels. But in this engaging and well-researched treatise, Michael Shellenberger exposes the environmental movement’s hypocrisy in painting climate change in apocalyptic terms while steadfastly working against nuclear power, the one green energy source whose implementation could feasibly avoid the worst climate risks. Disinformation from the left has replaced deception from the right as the greatest obstacle to mitigating climate change." (Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science, MIT)
"The trouble with end-of-the-world environmental scenarios is that they hide evidence-based diagnoses and exile practical solutions. Love it or hate it, Apocalypse Never asks us to consider whether the apocalyptic headline of the day gets us any closer to a future in which nature and people prosper.” (Peter Kareiva, director of the Institute for the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA, and former chief scientist for The Nature Conservancy
"In this tour de force of science journalism, Michael Shellenberger shows through interviews, personal experiences, vignettes, and case histories that environmental science offers paths away from hysteria and toward humanism. This superb book unpacks and explains the facts and forces behind deforestation, climate change, extinction, fracking, nature conservation, industrial agriculture, and other environmental challenges to make them amenable to improvements and solutions." (Mark Sagoff, author of The Economy of the Earth)
"We environmentalists condemn those with antithetical views of being ignorant of science and susceptible to confirmation bias. But too often we are guilty of the same. Shellenberger offers ‘tough love:’ a challenge to entrenched orthodoxies and rigid, self-defeating mindsets. Apocalypse Never serves up occasionally stinging, but always well-crafted, evidence-based points of view that will help develop the ‘mental muscle’ we need to envision and design not only a hopeful, but an attainable, future.” (Steve McCormick, former CEO, The Nature Conservancy and former President of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation)
"Michael Shellenberger loves the Earth too much to tolerate the conventional wisdom of environmentalism. This book, born of his passions, is a wonder: a research-driven page turner that will change how you view the world. I wish I'd been brave enough to write it, and grateful that he was." (Andrew McAfee, Principal Research Scientist at MIT and author of More from Less)
"Will declaring a crisis save the planet? The stakes are high, but Michael Shellenberger shows that the real environmental solutions are good for people too. No one will come away from this lively, moving, and well-researched book without a deeper understanding of the very real social challenges and opportunities to making a better future in the Anthropocene." (Erle Ellis, professor of geography and environmental systems, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and author of Anthropocene: A Very Short Introduction)
About the Author
Michael Shellenberger is a Time magazine “Hero of the Environment”; the winner of the 2008 Green Book Award from the Stevens Institute of Technology’s Center for Science Writings; and an invited expert reviewer of the next Assessment Report for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He has written on energy and the environment for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Nature Energy, and other publications for two decades. He is the founder and president of Environmental Progress, an independent, nonpartisan research organization based in Berkeley, California.
- Item Weight : 1.34 pounds
- Hardcover : 432 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0063001691
- ISBN-13 : 978-0063001695
- Dimensions : 6 x 1.35 x 9 inches
- Publisher : Harper; Illustrated edition (June 30, 2020)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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In the early 2000s, Shellenberger became disillusioned with what he saw as dogma and sentimentality in the environmental movement. Activists passed over clear, evidence-based solutions, sometimes even opposing them. This led him and fellow dissident Ted Norhaus to co-found the Breakthrough Institute and pen the heretical essay, "The Death of Environmentalism."
For the past two decades, Shellenberger has matured and proliferated his contrarian ideas into lectures, essays, tweets, books, and even his campaign for California governor in 2018. In a way, Apocalypse Never is the culmination of this apostasy.
It's clear that the author is a dedicated environmentalist. There are serious environmental issues, including climate change, but there are also serious issues in the environmental movement, such as the rejection of nuclear, a uniquely promising energy technology. His writing exudes a passion for both helping the environment and helping the movement accomplish its goals.
The writing is overstretched at times. On the topic I know most about, meat production, Shellenberger's chapter can feel like cherry-picking or missing the forest for the trees. There are plenty of exaggerations about animal-free food as a panacea, and I agree with the author's critique of the environmental benefits of "grass-fed," but there is also a clear moral impetus to reform the food system, for both climate efficiency reasons and to end the suffering of over 100 billion animals suffering on factory farms at any given time.
Still, the potential of Apocalypse Never is clear. In 1962, Silent Spring provided the environmental movement what it needed: national attention and awareness of the problems. 58 years later, there are some glaring problems with the modern environmental movement. The bottleneck is no longer simply more attention—it is advocating for tractable, evidence-based solutions that can address Earth's climate despite the turbulent political climate. Apocalypse Never directly addresses this challenge.
I don't know that I would agree with the author on many issues, but it is refreshing to hear from someone with expertise on the subject and not just drinking the Kool-Aid or bowing to the pressure from the power hungry fear-mongers.
I wish everyone would pull their heads out of (the sand ? other ?) wherever and read this book, especially students and educators who have blindly bought into all the propaganda.
Top reviews from other countries
In short, this book's important.
I can't imagine the painful shift in worldview the author had to go through to write it - he basically turns his entire personal history and life experience through 180 degres to reach the beliefs he now holds - but whatever it costs him, it's worth it.
Yes, it's well written and nicely sequenced - as any professional book should be - but its value comes from filling in the blanks the environmental movement consistently and unforgivably fails to fill. Over a quarter of the book is footnotes and attributions. Properly contextual scientific data, reasonable assumptions and projections instead of doom-mongering, a look at history and trends instead of media-friendly snapshots.
Yes, there are more forest fires, but it's because the controlled burns of the past don't happen, and disasters are getting pent-up. Yes, there are natural disasters, but they harm fewer people in developed economies, despite a far larger population. Yes, there may be a tipping point beyond which catastrophe becomes likely, but it's more like a 4C rise than 2C, impossible on current trendlines. Yes, we burp a lot of Co2 into the atmosphere - but levels in developed countries have been falling for decades, and are already starting to peak in much of the developing world.
All this means good news for the planet. Yes, our pale blue dot is fragile and we shouldn't abuse it. But it also lets us thrive economically with its resources, build better lives, create more opportunities for ourselves. Technology is solving climate-related problems - and has been solving them for hundreds of years. We live in a dynamic system. Coastlines change, seasons fluctuate, and in response populations move and cities die and grow. Humans are adaptable.
Most unforgivable of all? That friendlier technologies - fracking, natural gas, nuclear, intensive farming - are consistently opposed by those who claim to love this planet most. The worst environmental issues may already be behind us. Far too many green-thinking people are charlatans, however well-meaning. And chapter by chapter, this book explains why.
The author takes on multiple green shibboleths and demonstrates just how many of them stem from the excitable imaginations of activists - not real science or observed reality. All the more poignant when you learn the author is himself a lifelong activist - the real deal, living and working with peasants in Brazil and Nicaragua in his socialist youth, not an "armchair activist" applauding truanting teens on YouTube.
For those of us (most) who care deeply about the world we share, but want to base our decisions on actual facts rather than histrionics, this book lets you rebut essentially every argument. The world isn't perfect, but nor is it dying, and it doesn't have an expiration date of a few years ahead. Indeed, on the evidence, we're treating that planet better and better as we learn more about it.
This book is both enjoyable and informative. Everyone with even a passing interest in ecology should read it.
And a final word to all those "activists" who'll doubtless be turning on the author in fury: we might have taken you a bit more seriously if you didn't all dress like postapocalyptic children's entertainers.
To counter one of his key claims about climate change and impacts:
The world's largest re-insurers are very aware of current and future risks of climate change "[due to climate change there's already] an increased frequency and severity of major weather events means a higher number of more costly claims for insurers to deal with" and "there is a growing risk that certain perils will gradually become uninsurable in future (e.g., flood, wildfires) unless we act now". Morgan Stanley has shown that climate disasters cost North America $415 billion in the years 2015-2018. JPMorgan Chase has said that "we cannot rule out catastrophic outcomes [from climate change] where human life as we know it is threatened", even ExxonMobil has cautioned of "globally catastrophic effects [from climate change]". And the conservative IPCC report states "In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans" and of risks "increasing magnitudes of warming increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts".
It is well known that Shellenberger is a lobbyist for the nuclear industry, and that may in part explain what motivated Shellenberger to write a book that is far removed from mainstream science, whilst downplaying renewables. Nuclear is a necessary part of our future energy supply, but so are renewables and 2020 on course to be the warmest year on record.
I therefore cannot recommend his book.
Update: Six scientists have now reviewed the Forbes article, written by Shellenberger, and have estimated its overall scientific credibility to be 'low'.
What resonated with me, as a development economist, is the solutions proposed in many cases, which is where this book goes against the grain of activist prescriptions. Extinction Rebellion and their ilk seem to operate from a position of "human activity created these problems, therefore human activity should be shut down". As with the carbon emissions debate, this places all the burden on developing countries, effectively denying the world's poorest access to the comforts that we in the west take for granted. Shellenberg's position in many cases is that development and technological progress are the solution, not the problem. The way to stop erosion, for example, is to provide access to electricity so that energy-poor villagers dont have to cut down trees for fuel. In that regard, if you truly want to reduce carbon emissions, nuclear is a far better solution than wind or solar (see also the recent Michael Moore documentary that was banned from YouTube). On climate change, he does NOT deny it is happening, but believes that i) the amount of change will be far less and over a far longer period than the doomsayers claim; ii) that rising temperatures could be beneficial, eg in terms of crop yields; and iii) technological change will help humanity to deal with the negative results, as it has done for similar crises in the past. This is exactly the argument against the Malthusian population explosion adherents that keep re-emerging. If Malthus had been right none of us would be here.
Overall this is an intelligent and stimulating book. I suspect it may be criticised by both sides for not being extreme enough. I strongly support its advocacy for those in developing countries who are most vulnerable, not just to the environmental problems but also to the "solutions" put forward by lobbying groups.
Read this with an open mind. You may not agree with everything in it, but hopefully it will lead you to question some of the wilder positions held by both sides, and better yet, to form your own opinion based on (unbiased) evidence