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This Borrowed Earth: Lessons from the Fifteen Worst Environmental Disasters around the World (MacSci) 1st Edition

4.9 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0230619838
ISBN-10: 0230619835
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Robert Hernan provides a deep service … May this book give heart and courage to many more such great souls, for there are assuredly many more such fights to come.” ―from the foreword by Bill McKibben

“A wake-up call to all concerned citizens of this earth.” ―from the preface by Graham Nash

This Borrowed Earth: Lessons from Fifteen Environmental Disasters Around the World, powerfully depicts in simple, transparent prose, the lasting and wrenching impact of some of the major environmental disasters of the last century, which younger generations may only barely remember. But Mr. Hernan's book does much more. It reveals a striking similarity in the genesis of these disasters that can shed light on ways to prevent them in the future – in particular, the profit-driven development of production technologies with no heed to their health and environmental effects or the environmental fate of their products. One is convinced, after reading Mr. Hernan's book, that the only way to slow the rate of growth of devastating climate change is for governments around the world to assert control over our most basic technology – the production of energy in ways that can lift the world out of poverty without destroying it in the process.” ―Barry Commoner

“Lets the facts and the victims speak for themselves. Again and again, we see polluters hiding or denying information, threatening those impacted by pollution, and putting profits before people. Hernan's stories show that each of these disasters were avoidable; we can only hope that by reading of them we all learn and avoid future ones.” ―Peter Lehner, Executive Director, Natural Resources Defense Council

About the Author


Robert Emmet Hernan is a former senior counsel for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Assistant Attorney General for New York State. He was a trial lawyer for New York State in the infamous Love Canal Case. He lives in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Series: MacSci
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1 edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230619835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230619838
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.7 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joanna Isaak on March 10, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Robert Hernan's This Borrowed Earth is nothing if not timely. This survey of a number of the major environmental disasters of the last twenty years arrives at a time in which the global environmental situation has arguably become the major issue facing the world today. Hernan's book is a sobering and gripping narrative of a series of man-made environmental disasters, from Minimata to Chenobyl to Three Mile Island, the consequences of which were fatal to thousands of people. The record of evasions, self-excuses, and outright lying, practiced by the corporations and governments responsible for the disasters makes for disturbing reading, and a strong sense of the need for vigilance in the future. The book's subject matter is inherently dramatic, and is told in an appropriately minimalist style; the tragedies speak for themselves. A book that should receive wide readership, and a must read for anyone concerned about the state of the planet. -D. O'Connell
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Format: Paperback
Bob Hernan's book is a tremendously useful summation of fifteen of the worst environmental catastrophes of our time, along with their awful human toll. Clearly and gracefully written, it is transparent and accessible and would be a valuable teaching tool.
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Format: Paperback
"This Borrowed Earth" is an amazing book and should be required reading in all classrooms. Described here are fifteen of the worst man-made disasters that have shaped and given urgency to the contemporary environmental movement. Each story is told with clarity and compassion. Hernan lets the facts speak for themselves but in a prose that is limpidly clear, almost hypnotic. Full of information about the causes of these disasters, the book also focuses on the human experiences around the events--often heartbreaking. But the stories of individual courage and achievement are also inspiring and stand in stark contrast to the tales of corporate ignorance and/or indifference. Each new generation should be made aware of this history; many of us born after the l970's are shockingly unfamiliar with some of these landmark crises. This is a book that will help future generations to avoid the mistakes of the past.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book. It was a fast read for me and kept me glued to some absolutely horrifying events that have happened or are continuing to happen today. Lessons have been learned by heroic people that took a stand against almost immovable government agencies and corporate power. We can only hope to have such people lead the way to the future of a more environmentally responsible society.
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Hernan is a brilliant story teller. His stories of environmental disasters are riveting, particularly in his focus on the resulting human suffering. As each story unfolds, the author conveys complex environmental principles in direct, easily-understood language.

Hernan's stories are stark reminders of the environmental havoc that can be wrought all too easily in our highly-industrialized, ever-burgeoning world. Many of the disasters he recounts are in danger of being forgotten -- or worse, never known -- by newer generations. Kudos to the author for focusing the light of the current day on these critically-important events of the recent past -- lest we forget and such disasters begin to repeat themselves.
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This book gives an over of 15 very interesting environmental disasters, each told in chronological order from around the globe. A good read for a inspiring environmental major of any kind. Very summarized and likable stories. The book include the Love Canal, Chernobyl, global warming, and rainforest destruction around other things.
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Format: Paperback
The timing of Hernan's book is in perfect sync with the ongoing British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The format is simple: 15 chapters retelling 15 best known environmental disasters. Most of them you have probably heard of, a few may be new, but none do you know the full story. Environmental disasters can take 20 or more years to play out as health impacts and law suits work through the system, so the book provides recent updates even to old affairs like Love Canal. If you were alive when these disasters happened, and followed the news, like with the current BP oil spill, you have developed a mental picture of the story. However for the younger among us, we've only heard about them in bits and pieces and don't have the full story - this book solves that problem nicely. The writing is excellent, like watching a Frontline episode.

The 15 disasters:

Minamata, Japan, 1950s
London, England, 1952
Windscale, England, 1957
Seveso, Italy, 1976
Love Canal, New York, 1978
Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, 1979
Times Beach, Missouri, 1982
Bhopal, India, 1984
Chernobyl, Ukraine, 1986
Rhine River, Switzerland, 1986
Prince William Sound, Alaska, 1989
Oil Spills and Fires of Kuwait, 1991
Dassen and Robben Islands, South Africa, 2000
Brazilian Rainforest
Global Climate Change

The disasters I found most heartbreaking were Minamata, Japan because of the callous denial that went on for decades which destroyed nearly everyone involved. Love Canal, New York was similar, as was Times Beach, Missouri - the criminal negligence confounds belief. I was surprised that Bhopal, India was mostly the fault of inept Indian plant managers and not a US company, although they were ultimately responsible.
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