In his monumental bestsellers, The Closing Circle and Science and Survival, Barry Commoner was one of the first scientists to alert us to the hideous environmental costs of our technological development. Now, twenty years later, Commoner reviews the vast efforts made in the public and private spheres to address and control the damage done and shows us why, despite billions of dollars spent to save the environment, we now find ourselves in an even deeper crisis. It is a book of hard facts and figures whose conclusion—that environmental pollution can be prevented only through fundamental redesign of the way we produce goods—demands basic changes all across America, from the highest offices in Washington, D.C., to your own kitchen garbage can.
If, in the sixties and seventies, an eco-revolution seemed afoot, Commoner now documents how short we have fallen. Attempts to reshape consumer patterns have been halfhearted, there have been terrible miscalculations in government policy (and in environmental organization strategies), and we still face the deliberate resistance of private industry to change.
Despite these problems, Commoner argues convincingly for the key role still to be played by community organizations in scrutinizing and directing environmental action.
Translating technical information into digestible form, Commoner takes us step by step through an EPA “environmental impact” review, breaks down the arguments for and against incineration, explains dioxin, Bhopal, auto emission controls, mercury poisoning, the greenhouse effect, and the Byzantine calculation of “acceptable risk”—in ways that show how each of these factors affects all of us.
With a new introduction by the author, Making Peace with the Planet makes a clear and impassioned plea for us to stop wasting money and precious nonrenewable resources, including time.
On the 20th anniversary of Earth Day, a major intellectual force behind that grounds-well of environmental concern observes that the environmental movement - along with the vast, expensive apparatus that grew out of that event - has failed. The reason, Commoner (The Politics of Energy, 1979, etc.) says, is that the environmental organizations and government regulators have been haggling over limits, standards, and controls for pollutants when they should be dedicated to prevention. That's a formidable job, but Commoner claims that today's environmental crises result from production technologies initiated since WW II and are thus, conceivably, reversible. Redesigning the postwar "technosphere" - by recycling up to 90% of trash and substituting organic farming, decentralized solar electricity, mass transit, and nonpolluting cars, and natural materials for today's polluting technologies - could bring us into harmony with the ecosphere without threatening our economy or Third World development. The major obstacles are formidable - corporate power and devotion to short-term profits; government accommodation of the corporate agenda; and the American taboo against social intervention lead the list - but Commoner sees hope in the European Green movement, as well as in isolated but effective American consumer and citizen actions. Commoner's rational, radical diagnosis and prescription could well serve as a motivating agenda for Earth Day 1990. And without his hard green economic and political line, that occasion could be just one more exercise in toothless hoopla. (Kirkus Reviews)
At war with the planet; the environmental failure; prevention versus control; the cost of failure; redesigning the technosphere; preventing the trash crisis; population and poverty; envirnmental action; what can be done; making peace with the planet.