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The Improving State of the World: Why We're Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet Hardcover – January 19, 2007
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From the Back Cover
"Provocative, illuminating, sharp, and fact filled. Do you think that economic growth is a problem for the environment? Goklany will make you think again. Whether or not you're convinced by his arguments, you'll learn a ton from them." -Cass R. Sunstein, University of Chicago, author of Laws of Fear
"Goklany does an excellent job of refuting the global pessimists by documenting the dramatic improvements experienced in recent times by humankind, not only in the developed world, but worldwide. Goklany addresses a vast array of issues from the improving state of humanity's life expectancy to his examination of the promise and peril of bioengineered crops. The vast breadth of Goklany's inquiry is impressive, as is his exhaustive documentation." -Roger A. Sedjo, Resources for the Future
"A remarkable compendium of information at odds with the present fashionable pessimism, Goklany's The Improving State of the World, published by the Cato Institute, reveals that, contrary to popular belief, it is the poorest who are enjoying the most dramatic rise in living standards. Refuting a central premise of the modern green movement, it also demonstrates that as countries become richer, they also become cleaner, healthier and more environmentally conscious." -Allister Heath, The Spectator, read the full review
"In a book to be published next month entitled The Improving State of the World, Indur Goklany, of the Cato Institute, argues that the world's state is, well, improving. He produces figures to demonstrate that chronic undernourishment has gone down in the past 50 years, we are living longer, we are healthier, the basic necessities of life are cheaper, literacy has gone up and so has educational attainment, economic freedom has increased and a larger proportion of mankind than ever enjoys political freedom." -Daniel Finkelstein, The Times, read the full article
About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.86 pounds
- Hardcover : 450 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781930865990
- ISBN-13 : 978-1930865990
- Dimensions : 6.3 x 1.55 x 9.39 inches
- ASIN : 1930865996
- Publisher : Cato Institute (January 19, 2007)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #4,001,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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It is a brilliant answer to the eco-doom "best-sellers" that have proliferated recently. Highly recommended for those who want to KNOW, not just pontificate and pursue a political agenda.
is improving. By nearly every measure of human wellbeing, we are better off than we used
to be. Life expectancy is increasing. Starvation and malnourishment is decreasing. The air
is cleaner. The water is cleaner. Child labor is less prevalent. Literacy is increasing.
Personal income is increasing. There are many more. The good news applies to the world
as a whole, the developed world, and the developing world. But this is not just cheering
for the status quo. He identifies the exceptions to the general trends, and does it for
each of the measures of wellbeing. Most of the exceptions are in Africa south of the Sahara,
and in the former soviet empire.
The subtitle is "Why we're living longer, healthier, more comfortable lives on a cleaner planet".
The reason is technology, economic growth, human capital, education, the rule of law, and
private property, all linked together in many interconnected "virtuous cycles." For example,
economic growth means more money to buy technology such as fertilizer and tractors which means
more food and less hunger, and time for education so more children can make even better
technology and sell it for less to more well fed, less sick, longer lived people who can use
their energy for economic growth. With better infrastructure, less food rots before it is eaten,
so less land is needed for farms so there is more room for biodiversity. With economic security,
families tend to be smaller. Each improvement makes improvements in other areas more likely.
The book was published by Cato Institute, the well known conservative think tank. Liberals
should consider the message, rather than the messenger. You don't get up before dawn and look
west just because Hitler said the sun rises in the east.
It is easy to evaluate the arguments and check the claims in the 420 pages of text. There are
85 pages of notes. Most of the links in the virtuous cycles are fully explained by statistics.
There are a few places were Goklany resorts to qualitative explanations, but these are clearly
stated to be not quantitative. The statistical data is used more fairly than in any other work
I can recall. Almost all the time series analysis uses all the data available; the few exceptions
are explained and justified. He uses data from advocates of positions opposite what he will
conclude. For example, he accepts the data from IPCC and uses it in his analysis that shows
adaptation to changing climate is better than intervention to try to prevent the change. He uses
consistent rules for fitting trend lines. Sometimes, there are different statistics that seem to
be about the same reality. He sometimes explains why one source might be undercounting or
overcounting. He often will do the analysis with both sets of data.
Some of Goklany's arguments clearly follow Maslow's hierarchy of needs. People do not care about
the environment when they are hungry. People do not care about quality of life next year when
they are concerned about surviving this year. Economic growth allows people to care about the
environment. Technical advances allow them to do something about it.
The tone is level and matter of fact. This is not a hate book, but some will hate some of the
conclusions. He presents the arguments for other conclusions fairly. Those that reach other
conclusions are not portrayed as evil or stupid, or even as paid shills of some vast conspiracy.
The book is optimistic about our future, with the emphasis on what is good for people. He does not
praise or deplore large families, but notes the strong trend towards smaller families as wealth
increases. Wealth brings health and less infant mortality, so an increase in population, but
increased family size happens only for a while.
The conclusions Goklany reaches will seem correct to more conservatives than liberals. The book will
not appeal to the extremes of either political wing, but it could be a big help to most of us
in the middle that wonder what we can do to help humanity.
This is not an entertaining read. There is a lot of information to absorb. There are many steps in
some of the virtuous cycles. Some of the vicious cycles Goklany debunks have to be examined in
detail to show they are wrong. You do not have to read it straight through to benefit from this
book. The next time you are invited on a crusade or bandwagon, pause and check it out. Use the
detailed index and find out all sides of the issue. You might find enough information to satisfy
yourself in just a few pages. But most things influence most other things and you might want to dig
deeper. You might find you have read half the book by the time you cover all the issues that are
related to the topic that was your starting point.
This is an important and excellent book. I highly recommend it.