Former Greenpeace activist debunks
reviewed by Jim Powell
There's much more to this explosively controversial book than
"an old left-wing Greenpeace member" (as statistician
Lomborg describes himself) who, inspired by Julian Simon, debunks
the environmentalist doom-and-gloomers.
The book abounds with fascinating material on almost every
page. For instance, how wonderful were primitive societies,
extolled by environmentalists who constantly carp about
industrialism? About half the children died before age 5. Stone
Age skeletons from Africa suggest that life expectancy was about
21 years. Politically-correct types have long viewed India as
morally superior to the West, yet in India, as recently as 1906,
life expectancy was just 25 years! Even later, in 1930, life
expectancy in China was only 24. Communism was a catastrophe in
which more than 30 million starved to death, but since economic
liberalization, Chinese food production soared, and as Lomborg
notes, about half has come from comparatively small private plots.
Lomborg affirms that many of the most densely-populated regions
in the world are among the most prosperous, that prosperity goes
hand-in-hand with a cleaner environment, and that we aren't
running out of energy or natural resources. He maintains that
while global warming might do some harm, the proposed remedies
(government-mandated cutbacks of fossil fuels) would be worse.
Check out his
website, which has criticisms and rebuttals of the book.
"This is one of the most valuable books on public
policy—not merely environmental policy—to have been written
for the intelligent general reader in the past ten years. . . .
The Skeptical Environmentalist is a triumph."
"The Skeptical Environmentalist marks a critical
environmental moment. . . . We can forget those dreary
old idols: Paul Ehrlich, Lester Brown with his Worldwatch
Institute, Greenpeace and all the others. They have been exiled
into the darkness. Eco-optimism can begin to rise over the
Earth. After Lomborg, the environmental movement will begin to
"Bjorn Lomborg's good news about the environment is bad
news for Green ideologues. His richly informative, lucid book is
now the place from which environmental policy decisions must be
argued. In fact, The Skeptical Environmentalist is the
most significant work on the environment since the appearance of
its polar opposite, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, in
1962. It's a magnificent achievement."
—Washington Post Book World
". . . think of The Skeptical
Environmentalist as a young geek's answer to Al Gore's Earth
in the Balance. . . . Lomborg pulls off the
remarkable feat of welding the techno-optimism of the Internet
age with a lefty's concern for the fate of the planet."
"The Skeptical Environmentalist should be read by
every environmentalist, so that the appalling errors of fact the
environmental movement has made in the past are not repeated. A
brilliant and powerful book."
Ridley, Author of Genome
"Those who abandon long-held faiths are often strident
advocates of their new views. But Dr. Lomborg displays little of
the convert's zeal. His aim is not to preach free-market
solutions for every problem or to deny that threats to the
—Nicholas Wade, Science Times, New York Times
". . . a superbly documented and readable book."
—Wall Street Journal
"Mr. Lomborg, it is important to note, does not say that
all is well with the world. And The Economist for that
matter does not say that Mr. Lomborg is right about every issue
he addresses. Environmental policy involves uncertainty, as Mr.
Lomborg emphasizes; now and then this raises doubts that deserve
more attention than he gives them . . . We do believe,
however, that he is right on his main points, that his critique
of much green activism and its reporting in the media is just,
and, above all, that where there is room for disagreement, Mr.
Lomborg invites and facilitates discussion, rather than seeking
to silence it. The same cannot be said for many of his
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