IN DEFENSE OF EARTH: International Protection of the Biosphere by Lynton K. Caldwell

IN DEFENSE OF EARTH: International Protection of the Biosphere

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A position-cum-background paper prepared for the upcoming UN Conference on the Human Environment scheduled for June in Stockholm. The first half traces the historical trajectory of the environmental crisis which until recently, according to Indiana University Professor Caldwell, has been only dimly perceived and then grossly underestimated. Man is an ""unecological animal,"" says Caldwell; his primal greed, irrational shortsightedness, and lack of historical sensibility blind him to the ""paradox of progress"" and bind him to a ""developmental treadmill"" -- ""Throughout history man has repeatedly 'eaten himself out of house and home.'"" The latter half reviews both current national and international efforts to ameliorate the impending ""eco-catastrophe"" and proposes alternative solutions, mainly the creation of agencies which would undercut ""national parochialism"" such as a transnational pollution ombudsman, a global environmental ""monitoring network,"" investigative and policy-making organizations. But unlike Barry Commoner (The Closing Circle, 1971) who expressed some optimism for legislated remedies, Caldwell believes that man's social behavior must change -- or be changed -- before the biosphere can be saved and disaster averted. Toward this end, he cautiously calls for recognition and understanding of ""the biological base of phylo-genetically conditioned behavior with which man must learn to deal if he is to survive."" This is admittedly muted and vague, but the direction in which Caldwell is moving is not: self-control or laissez-faire has failed and now perhaps it is time to begin imposing behavioral controls on the ""unecological"" animal. If the conferees at Stockholm can draw out Caldwell and pin him down on this point, it ought to be quite a meeting.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1972
Publisher: Indiana Univ. Press