Why Are We Damaging Our Biosphere?
Email this review


An entertaining, tenable overview of why humans behave like dolts when it comes to protecting the environment.

“The simple truth is that humanity is poisoning the world,” writes Chism. According to the author, our animal emotions have been operating for millions of years so it is our ancient lineage to keep operating as such. Our cerebral cortex has but a 100,000-year history; our thinking is stepchild to our hardwiring, and the ancient hardwiring still dominates; and evolutionary instincts such as fear, status (regulating self-esteem and self-confidence), clannishness, sex and violence remain in sway. Our socialization and belief systems give us the narrowest of compasses; emotions provide motivational energy; and denial demands us to meet threats to our belief systems (personality traits colored by a moral and aesthetic sensibility) with dismissal or force. In the service of clarity and implementation–though Chism appreciates complexity, nuance and interconnectedness as well and quietly works them into his argument–he has synthesized and reduced a good swath of intellectual history to make his end product bell-clear. “We can override our ancient programming by employing discipline through reasoning and logic, but it is much like swimming upstream,” which is very much counter to our lizard brain, ruled by us-versus-them, desperate consumption and the swagger of tribal status. In the modern world, our brains–tuned to a small population and absent of technology–are feeding us a cyanide pill. It will take much time, writes Chism, to quell the urge to reproduce in suicidal numbers, achieve consumption sustainably, and stanch cultural arrogance and the fears that incite hatred. Chism’s thesis is lively and provocative, but he can be naïve about the historical particularities of international politics–witness his thoughts on Afghanistan–and when he offers comments like “we need to mobilize the world’s celebrities…to popularize zero emission fuels.”

A straightforward and engaging look at how humans conduct affairs with the Earth.

Pub Date: Aug. 27th, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-6151-5686-6
Page count: 158pp
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online: