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Gregg Easterbrook
Global Views
February 28 - March 10

Excerpts from Gregg Easterbrook's A Moment on the Earth:

  • Preface: Why the Good
    News Shouldn't Scare You

    "A peculiar intellectual inversion has occurred in which good news about the environment is treated as something that ought to be hushed over, while bad news is viewed with relief."

  • Chapter 34: The Eco-
    realist Manifesto

    "The straightforward, rational case for the environment will prove more durable than the fiercest doomsday emotion. Love nature? Learn science and speak logic. Many lesser creatures will thank you."

  • Chapter 35: The Balance
    "The sluggish caterpillar myrmecophilous, an attractive target for wasps, has two nectary glands that secrete a potion ants seem to consider champagne. If myrmecophilous thumps a branch in distress over the presence of a wasp, any nearby ants will rush to defend the caterpillar."

  • Gregg Easterbrook's Atlantic article index

  • gregg picture Environmental Optimist

    February 28, 1997

    In the Western world pollution will end within our lifetime. Nearly all technical devices and modes of production today tend to be more efficient, use fewer resources, produce less waste, and cause less ecological disruption than technologies of the past. A growing human population of many billions can take a constructive place in the natural order. Gregg Easterbrook -- to appear in Post & Riposte's Global Views forum for the next several days to discuss his theory of environmental optimism -- advances these bold premises towards the end of his controversial book, A Moment on the Earth (Viking, 1995).

    moment picture Easterbrook argues that our natural environment is proving to be much more resilient than commonly claimed and that ecological protection and economic prosperity are not incompatible. In fact, Easterbrook asserts, the record shows that the majority of Western environmental regulations have been successful, cost effective, and on balance have helped the economy, not hurt it.

    Easterbrook's environmental optimism is controversial in part because it cuts across ideological lines. Many environmental activists and political liberals can't stand any assertion that the environment is actually getting better. Many conservatives can't stand any assertion that regulations have been cost-effective or good for the country. In discussing this controversy, Easterbrook says, "Environmental groups like the Environmental Defense Fund have called me all kinds of names. Bruce Babbit and Al Gore have both condemned me, as have right-wingers, like Rep. Tom DeLay, who say I'm crazy to say that regulations work. Eventually, though, everybody will believe this theory."

    Easterbrook, a contributor to The Atlantic Monthly since 1982, has written on national politics, weapons systems, labor negotiations, poverty, electric power, and the search for extraterrestrial life. Most recently, Easterbrook has reported for The Atlantic on the armed services TV network, in "Blood and Motherly Advice" (February, 1997), and Norman Borlaug, the little-known Nobel-prize-winning agronomist, in "Forgotten Benefactor of Humanity" (January, 1997).

    Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
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