on February 3, 2001
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.
on April 14, 2005
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.
on July 25, 2001
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.
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.
on April 16, 2010
A work of great synthesis and organization, displaying an obviously tough and commanding mind assaying the state of the environmental "movement" of the early 90's - and time has only proven Tom Athanasiou's insights prophetic. Who else did more to explore the term "greenwashing" and note the fatal nostrums of the Big Greens? However, the "movement," if it can be called that after Copenhagen, needs an updated critique from inside, an even stronger condemnation of greenwashers like Amory Lovins and Lester Brown, but it does not appear that Tom Athanasiou, despite his immense journalistic and scientific literary gifts, will do a second edition.