DOWN TO EARTH: Environment and Human Needs by Erik P. Eckholm

DOWN TO EARTH: Environment and Human Needs

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An expert, all-encompassing appraisal of the global environment ten years after the historical Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Eckholm emphasizes that the ""global underclass,"" with ""no time to worry about environmental trends,"" is the most deeply affected by environmental quality; similarly, the environmental struggle is ""unavoidable intertwined"" with the struggle to improve their lot. Using recent population data, Eckholm shows that an increased standard of living (better food, health, medicine) in most cases causes a sharp decrease in population growth. (Africa is the troubling exception.) Though the world is not on the abyss of mass starvation feared ten years ago, undernourishment is still severe. The sea, another area of dire prediction ten years ago, is more resilient than previously believed. But overfishing has taken its toll, and for the first time the global catch has leveled off. One success has been controls on whaling, and now many whale stocks should recover; careful harvesting, in Eckholm's view, is compatible with recovered stocks--man is ethically justified in utilizing, with care, all natural resources. But given our limited knowledge of the ocean, strict controls should remain in place. Noting the recent worldwide government-and-industry attack on pollution controls, Eckholm responds with a strong economic argument: the financial costs of environmental and human degradation are higher than the cost of built-in controls, even in the Third World. On the problem of acid rain, Eckholm sees little hope of immediate progress. Also far off is reasonable control of soil degradation and deforestation. Once more, the causes are economic conditions; the hardest hit, the Third World poor. Habitat destruction, in turn, is the major cause of extinctions--and destruction is most rapid in the least-studied areas, such as tropical rain forests. For an up-to-date understanding of any of these areas--or for a balanced overview--readers will be checking with Eckholm in the coming years.

Pub Date: June 4th, 1982
Publisher: Norton