- Hardcover: 200 pages
- Publisher: University of Chicago Press (April 21, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 022611368X
- ISBN-13: 978-0226113685
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,355,278 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hope on Earth: A Conversation Hardcover – April 21, 2014
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Oh, to have been a fly on the wall during the meeting between these two environmental giants that took place during a couple of days at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. For dedicated environmentalists, this book is the next best thing. Each a renowned leader in his special field, Ehrlich and Tobias represent the cumulative thinking of the past 45 years of interdisciplinary ecological studies. Their discussions are wide-ranging and deeply personal. Tobias’ unabashed championing of animal rights and vegetarianism are countered by Ehrlich’s equally audacious positions on population control and resource management. Often spirited, frequently at odds, these two scientists respectfully agree to disagree when their positions clash yet always manage to intuitively arrive at the heart of any topic, from reproductive rights to gun control, government regulation to recycling, and offer sharp and discerning arguments for ethical, scientific, and responsible resolutions. A brilliant, absorbing, and timely discussion of the most pressing issues of the day conducted by two of the world’s foremost environmental experts. --Carol Haggas
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This book is a conversation between two great scientists (joined by John Harte for awhile) who agree on the following facts: 1) Earth's climate is changing; 2) a major extinction of species and populations is happening right now; 3) we're losing ecosystems and polluting air, water and land to the extent that essential ecosystem services may not continue to keep all of us alive; 4) the world's population and resource consumption have never been as large as now, which compounds the other three problems.
Ehrlich and Tobias also agree -- as do the resounding majority of scientists -- that human impacts are strongly responsible for what we see happening. (If you still don't believe in man-made causes for climate change, please stop watching Fox News and reading "research" from the Heartland Institute.)
The key question Ehrlich and Tobias tackle in this small volume, in an informal way, is how to get humanity out of this mess, FAST. They engage in a multidisciplinary conversation in which they don't always see eye to eye, and where Tobias' insistence in talking about chickens is a metaphor for our ability, as humans, to make better choices. The amount of information both men bring to the table -- about history, biology, philosophy, environmental science, nutrition, peripatetic conversations and the kitchen sink -- is impressive. There are statements in this book that made me laugh, and others that I'll quote to my grandchildren when they get a little older. This is NOT your dry standard textbook.
The text is punctuated with beautiful photos (many of which were taken by Dr. Tobias) and with insightful gems such as this one by Dr. Ehrlich: "The reason why people don't care about what happens to future generations, beyond a certain point, is that we are actually wired to associate with people whose faces we can picture." Perhaps it's time for a greater number of us to start imagining the faces of our descendants seven generations ahead, as did the Iroquois (who, perhaps not by chance, continue to thrive, as opposed to other Native American groups who were decimated).
If you enjoyed the movie "Mindwalk," where connections are suggested and it's up to you to connect the dots, or James Burke's "The Day the Universe Changed," where unlikely causes and correlations are brought to the fore, you will likely love "Hope on Earth." It is chock full with food for thought, including the question of whether we can still hope to reverse our collision course with a scary future.
According to Ehrlich and Tobias we can still reverse it. If you do nothing else check out p. 177 in the afterword, where they give us a few easy action steps we can take, followed by suggested readings.
Tobias makes a very strong case in favor of practicing nonviolence toward animals, leading to a vegan ethic. Ehrlich concedes that he hasn't yet "transitioned to vegetarianism, even though at times I think it would be more ethical." That said, Ehrlich later argues that he thinks the issue is less important than others, arguing “It’s just that whether it’s ethical to eat meat is pretty far down my list when several billion human beings are not well nourished," and so on.
I was surprised that Ehrlich didn't readily agree with Tobias on this point, especially since animal agriculture is such a substantial contributor to climate change. Even if preventing animal cruelty isn't high on Ehrlich's list of priorities, certainly global warming is right at the top.
In the end, the authors jointly offer a series of recommendations for increasing the chance of creating a more sustainable civilization. They include eating less meat, having only one -- or no -- child, driving less, and planting native trees/bushes.
I got a lot of out of the book and highly recommend it. It's a riveting conversation between two important minds who are working to make the world a much better place.