NO WORLD WITHOUT END: The New Threats to Our Biosphere by Katherine & Peter Montague

NO WORLD WITHOUT END: The New Threats to Our Biosphere

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The negativism of the title sets the tone for this recital of the sins of a polluting society. In particular, the authors have singled out the dangers of metal contaminants such as lead, mercury, and cadmium. While trace elements of many inorganic substances are vital to life, the burden added by fuel combustion, industrial processing, mining, or metallurgy pose ominous threats. These may be short-term, e.g., lead poisoning leading to brain damage in children--or long-term--typically, certain cancers that affect factory workers continuously exposed to particulate matter in the air or embedded in clothing. The problem is cumulative. Over a lifetime you store more and more of the substance and no one knows what level, if any, is safe. In addition to these hazards, the authors emphasize that our agricultural and energy programs are counterproductive. We produce less nutritious and more contaminated food, and, in the case of nuclear energy, invite the risk of exposure to highly toxic plutonium or an all-out nuclear accident. The combined fallout of our industrial labors may also be altering the climate for the worse. The Montagues think so. Here, and in other areas, there is much speculation and one can quarrel with the statistics or authorities chosen. The authors' solution--a discharge tax system that would be levied against the polluters--is also provocative. (Who decides what's toxic and how bad it is? What's to prevent the tax from being passed on to the consumer?) The writing of all this grim news lacks the grace of a Rachel Carson or the teaching gift of a Barry Commoner. Still the Montagues are to be commended for their conscientious research and for raising questions no federal agency seems yet prepared to answer.

Pub Date: Aug. 2nd, 1976
Publisher: Putnam