Saturday, January 29, 2005

Easterbrook Island

Greg Easterbrook reviews Jared Diamond's Collapse in the Sunday NY Times. I've skimmed the book and I think it deserves a lot of respect, given that Diamond is the first environmentalist I've read to examine supposed Malthusian catastrophes in more detail. He's also articulate in defending the green critique of modern economic and political practise against its detractors such as Bjorn Lomborg and Julian Simon. On the other hand, as Easterbrook points out, he's conservative in overlooking the power of conscious evolution and adaptation by humanity, although he doesn't ignore culture and politics as extensively as he does in his last book, Guns, Germs and Steel.

To Easterbrook's dissent, I would add my own discontent with his somewhat shallow examination of many of the issues he writes on, as he ignores many of the most relevant works on the problems of energy and China's environment and often leaves out, both from the main text and the footnotes the most useful information from those works he does cite.

Needless to say, the dismal science doesn't get much of a role in his proposals to save the world, although his discussion of consumer pressure on natural resource extractors is very interesting and original in making a hard business case for careful environmental stewardship.