THE GNAT IS OLDER THAN MAN by Christopher D. Stone


Global Environment and Human Agenda
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 An exhaustive analysis--and allocation--of environmental responsibility along global and national lines from a legal viewpoint, with a glance at the ethical dimensions of the problem. Stone (Law/University of Southern California) contends that our environmental problems are real but often blown out of proportion--and that they are, in fact, treatable. His approach is to identify what he considers the true areas of need and then to erect a grand legal construct outlining global, international, and intranational environmental liability. His vision is densely woven, taking into account discrepancies between national values, the North-South conflict, problems in compliance and the setting of standards, technological fixes, self-corrective mechanisms, and a host of mundane details. Economic consequences are never far from the surface: Taxes are considered; credits and permits are weighed; and Stone's bàte noire--massive public spending on each new, unproven environmental worry--is taken to task. The author proposes a global ``commons'' trust fund, wherein use of the commons--the high seas, polar regions, air space--is paid for in fees that in turn go to maintenance and repair of the commons. At first, Stone's cold legal sensibility is a refreshing counterpoint to the purple prose of much environmental writing, but it can be wearying. Nor is it very suitable for his consideration--pitifully brief--of moral and ethical issues. And his absolving of the Judeo-Christian ethic and ``capitalist greed'' of their answerable share of today's environmental woes is galling. These problems don't fatally compromise the book, but the ethical questions deserve greater and warmer attention than they get here. Despite the flaws, though: a sweeping critique--its proposals cool, smart, and imaginative--with enough common sense to give the most die-hard environmentalists pause.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-691-03250-5
Page count: 330pp
Publisher: Princeton Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1993


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