The Real Environmental Crisis: Why Poverty, Not Affluence, Is the Environment's Number One Enemy

The Real Environmental Crisis: Why Poverty, Not Affluence, Is the Environment's Number One Enemy

Jack M. Hollander

Language: English

Pages: 251

ISBN: 0520243285

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Drawing a completely new road map toward a sustainable future, Jack M. Hollander contends that our most critical environmental problem is global poverty. His balanced, authoritative, and lucid book challenges widely held beliefs that economic development and affluence pose a major threat to the world's environment and resources. Pointing to the great strides that have been made toward improving and protecting the environment in the affluent democracies, Hollander makes the case that the essential prerequisite for sustainability is a global transition from poverty to affluence, coupled with a transition to freedom and democracy.

The Real Environmental Crisis takes a close look at the major environment and resource issues—population growth; climate change; agriculture and food supply; our fisheries, forests, and fossil fuels; water and air quality; and solar and nuclear power. In each case, Hollander finds compelling evidence that economic development and technological advances can relieve such problems as food shortages, deforestation, air pollution, and land degradation, and provide clean water, adequate energy supplies, and improved public health. The book also tackles issues such as global warming, genetically modified foods, automobile and transportation technologies, and the highly significant Endangered Species Act, which Hollander asserts never would have been legislated in a poor country whose citizens struggle just to survive.

Hollander asks us to look beyond the media's doomsday rhetoric about the state of the environment, for much of it is simply not true, and to commit much more of our resources where they will do the most good—to lifting the world's population out of poverty.

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very high. (Note that there is still considerable room for the average productivity to creep up toward the maximum genetic potential.) The bottom line: if the world’s average crop yield reaches only that of wheat production in the United States today (3 tons per hectare), the world’s nine billion people could enjoy an average daily consumption of 3,000 calories and use less than two-thirds of the land area under cultivation today.18 Calories from cereal grains are, of course, not the whole story

and severe form of the chronic food insufficiency that plagues a number of developing countries. A famine is more than a localized food shortage—it is an environmental disaster, a total disruption of the systems and institutions that produce and distribute food. Recurring famines are responsible for loss of countless lives each year in developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Droughts or floods are sometimes the immediate triggers of famine, but the root causes are invariably deeper.

agriculture began—plants and animals have been genetically modified by selective breeding, giving us beef, wheat, corn, oats, potatoes, pumpkins, rice, sugar beets, and grapes, with no evidence of harm to either public health or the environment. Whatever risks there may have been in traditional selective breeding—and these were very small—the risks from adding specific genes via genetic engineering are even smaller since the products can be much more precisely controlled. In any event, since 1994

tells us that “forests are being cleared. Oceans overfished. Toxic chemicals are everywhere. Not just individual plants and animals, but entire ecosystems are in danger of disappearing forever. And we will all suffer from these losses. Fewer than 500 days remain in this century, and the fate of the planet rests on choices we make today” (full-page advertisement in New York Times, August 21, 1998). And the venerable Sierra Club claims that “the human race is engaged in the largest and most

NUKES TO THE RESCUE? | 161 fuels, new nuclear power plants could become competitive in the baseload electricity market. The situation with existing nuclear plants is more favorable, because their capital costs are largely amortized and their operation, maintenance, and fuel costs are relatively low. This is why the nuclear industry shows such a keen interest in renewing nuclear-plant operating licenses.12 NUCLEAR WASTE A major barrier to the resurgence of nuclear power is the waste issue—the

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