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The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earths Future Hardcover – September 3, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
Top Customer Reviews
Sabin is an academic at Yale who teaches environmental history. He introduces the book by describing his own environmentalism which is a very honest and clear way of clarifying his own biases.
The book then looks at Paul Ehrlich’s rise to fame as a prophet of doom. Ehrlich’s childhood, career as a butterfly biologist and his rise a ecological activist is catalogued. Ehrlich’s book ‘The Population Bomb’ and his series of dire predictions and rise to fame in the 1960s and 1970s is described with insight.
Sabin then looks at Julian Simon’s childhood and career. Interestingly both Simon and Ehrlich grew up in suburban New Jersey to upwardly mobile Jewish parents. Simon went to Harvard then obtained an MBA and then a PhD at the University of Chicago. Simon initially worked on using marketing to reduce population growth but then investigated the assumption that increased population was a problem and came to the opposite conclusion.
Next the rise of environmentalism in the 1970s is described. The creation of the Environmental Protection Agency by Richard Nixon and the passage of various other laws and the rise of Jimmy Carter and his own environmental beliefs along with the oil crisis are discussed.
The book then gets to the famous bet between Simon and Ehrlich where Simon challenged Ehrlich to pick 5 metals that he thought would rise over the next decade. Ehrlich comprehensively lost the bet after declaring that taking up the bet would be easily getting free money.Read more ›
What made this book such a treat to read, however, is the entertaining style in which it is written. It is loaded with anecdotes about Paul Erlich and Julian Simon, who made the bet that is the centerpiece of the story, and the people around them that populated the political landscape. For example, I loved the description of Jimmy Carter's White House maintenance staff, nicknamed the "thermostat police," visiting people's offices to make sure they hadn't reset the thermostats, and of President Carter sweating through cabinet meetings to set an example for the rest of the country. This kind of amusing story gives the rather serious topic a lighter side, too.
Sabin's book is well-written, making this dramatic and important subject easy reading. He appreciates both the big picture - what was really at stake in this bet - and the small details about the two bettors and how they came to make that wager.
It's a great book for students and teachers, for environmentalists and economists, and for anyone interested in the fate of human life on earth.
Is the world about to end, or become deeply damaged? Or will progress, as ushered in through free-market capitalism, save the day? We continue to live with these profound questions, just as we did forty years ago. It's essential that we find ways to examine and discuss earth's potential pathways, and to choose the right routes. The Bet offers both a cautionary tale and possible signposts indicating how to productively engage in the complex challenges that aren't going away.
This is a must-read for environmental historians, environmentalists, capitalists, and anyone who cares about the future of the earth.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An interesting argument as both of these men today would probably team rather than compete to understand the future of humanity.Published 8 months ago by Freedom P.
We were supposed to run out of oil and everything by the 1990's. God I remember my teachers ranting about this in the '70's. Stupid Hippies. Read morePublished 10 months ago by OS Human.0
Shows the hysteria of Ehrlich's position and how wrong he has been on the World's ability to support higher total population The contrast with Simon's optimism is a good contrast. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Pearstewks
Excellent case study on advocacy, the development of the environmental lobby, role of academia / business / politics in shaping policy. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Brian D. Labatte
I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding the history behind the existing polarization on technical issues.Published 17 months ago by Tom Krehbiel
Started strong. Would have been a better article in the Atlantic. No need for it to stretch the length it did.Published 17 months ago by D
The bet in 1980 resulted from the publicity surrounding publication of 'Population Bomb' by Paul Ehrlich in 1968. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Gderf