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Divided Planet: The Ecology of Rich and Poor Hardcover – April, 1996

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Tom Athanasiou, a journalist and businessman, has produced an important, 385-page essay on the state of global environmentalism that is both hopeful and dire. He points to the 1992 Earth Summit Rio de Janeiro as "a doorway opening to ... more humane economics ... and greater concern for the vulnerability of Mother Earth." However, he also warns of the consequences of the economic inequalities of the southern and northern hemispheres and the potential ecological disasters of encouraging poorer countries to pursue the purely market-based path of richer countries.

From Publishers Weekly

From NAFTA to America's consumer culture and from the ecological imperialism practiced by the developed world over the developing world to the disappointing environmental record of the Clinton administration, Athanasiou rails against environmental abuse and injustice worldwide. He presents much thought-provoking material. For example, foreign aid for environmental projects is not only often environmentally destructive but makes recipient countries more-rather than less-dependent. "[I]n 1993, the world's forty poorest countries paid $19 billion more in debt and interest than they received in aid." And America's consumerism, in addition to its environmental impact, has dramatic effects on everyday life: "Americans... spend, on average, about six hours shopping each week. This is more time than Russians spent in the late 1980s, when Soviet shopping queues were world famous." Overall, the book's breadth becomes distracting with topics shifting rapidly. The prose itself is often academic and thus difficult to follow. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 385 pages
  • Publisher: Little Brown & Co (T); 1st edition (April 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316056359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316056359
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,428,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Matthew Cheney on February 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
Divided Planet accomplishes what hundreds of other books about environmental politics don't: it digs into the big questions of the complicated web of relationships between economy and ecology, and so gets to the heart of most of the troubles facing the planet. Athanasiou writes clearly and coherently about various approaches to environmental problems, and he measures them against a wide view of the world's resources which has more in common with Oxfam than the Sierra Club.
The book offers a cogent analysis of our troubles and an almost unique vision of where we need to go from here, but also serves as a reliable history of the environmental movement and various environmental philosophies, from moderate pragmatism to Deep Ecology. Athanasiou is honest and fair about the strengths and limits of past approaches, while at the same time offering his own radical point of view. (And I don't mean radical as a demeaning term -- one of the benefits of this book is that Athanasiou recognizes the need for big, systemic changes.)
Unlike many books on similar subjects, this is not a manifesto of doom and gloom or two hundred pages of blame, blame, blame. Yes, Athanasiou admits the situation doesn't look good, but he's interested in figuring out what to do, not in sitting around and whining. Divided Planet offers an excellent and humane critique, but it also offers some paths forward. We could all stand to listen to the critique, and take a step onto one of the paths.
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Format: Paperback
I've often heard vague assertions or individual examples concerning the relationship between environmental issues and social equity issues. But I never really gave it much thought; it seemed to me as if liberals were simply making a connection between two left wing issues out of convenience.

Now I know better.

Athanasiou has made a persuasive and detailed argument that poverty and pollution are one and the same problem; anyone who cares about the have-nots must care about the earth, and anyone who cares about the environment must see the huge role that social inequity plays in destroying the earth.

With access to better food, better water, better air, and better health care, the rich can avoid to be cavalier about the environmental woes that threaten those who are less fortunate. I've always derived a bit of comfort from the idea that environmental devastation is an equalizer that is insensitive to wealth and race; unfortunately, that's not quite true.

If the ravaging of the earth results in truly catastrophic events, everyone will be affected severely. But for the very long, intermediate stage between that scenario and the world in which we currently live, this is a divided planet, and the division is ugly.

Personally, I'm much more interested in the environment than social issues, and I wasn't completely convinced that the correct remedies to the earth's ills would be the sweeping global economic reform that the book seems to recommend.

Despite this, I think this book is an invaluable addition to the canon of environmental books; if nothing else, it demonstrates the very real connection between the plight of the world's poor, and the plight of Mother Earth, giving us all twice as many reasons to help either.
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Format: Paperback
Highly recommended for anyone looking to get beyond the tired, short-sighted rhetoric of those in the environmental movement avoiding the debate of economics and the current rich/poor gap in the world. An insightful critique of the environmental movement, focusing on right-wing environmentalists, politicians, ngo's, and population obsessors. Also included is an even more detailed critique of the new global order firmly established after the cold war and the challenges it presents a quickly destabalizing world. A much needed read for environmental activists, anti-corporate globalization activists, human rights advocates, and especially those opposed to their actions as the book is an intelligent, well-sighted, in-depth critique of the new economic world order.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Divided Planet is the product of a veteran environmental advocate. Tom Athanasiou presents a sober analysis of current environmental realities in this well-written and thoughtful book. As our environment deteriorates, the author documents and analyzes the dialogue between those who plunder natural resources and those who are working to protect our planet. Importantly, the root cause of environmental destruction -- the divide between rich and poor -- is mostly overlooked, the author writes. Mr. Athanasiou's book explains why overcoming North/South economic disparity may be a daunting task, yet he also provides inspiration for those individuals who may ultimately work for environmental justice on a global scale. Highly recommended.
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