DIVIDED PLANET by Tom Athanasiou


The Ecology of Rich and Poor
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 A shrill indictment of all that is wrong with the current environmental movement. ``Environmentalism,'' political activist Athanasiou writes, ``is only now reaching its political maturity. Its childhood heroes are, if not broken, at least diminished by a sense of high stakes and ramifying agendas.'' Athanasiou is not the first writer to suggest that many environmental groups have sold out to the politics of compromise--Christopher Manes did it much more convincingly in Green Rage--but he is quicker than most to resort to ad hominem attacks to make his points. Athanasiou accuses one ``childhood hero,'' Al Gore, of cowardice in the face of the antienvironment Republican Congress: ``As U.S. vice president, he quickly showed himself to be cut of altogether thinner cloth than the liberal idealist who, as a senator, wrote Earth in the Balance.'' Elsewhere he glibly invokes the examples of Auschwitz and Chernobyl to argue that technology is a bad thing, and he anticipates nothing but evil in the opening of the former Communist states to free trade. To these uninteresting arguments, Athanasiou adds the requisite dose of catastrophism, ignoring a friend's altogether apt remark that seers of gloom and doom ``had a professional relationship to their predictions of apocalypse.'' In even-tempered moments he does, however, score a few points, as when he argues that a deep inequity colors our view of world ecology: When considering the planet's exploding human birth rate, we think not of Holland and Japan, countries with the highest population densities in the world, but rather of Bangladesh and China. `` `Population,' '' Athanasiou writes, ``is a code word that reveals certain matters but obscures others.'' So it does, and Athanasiou might have spent more time exploring this issue seriously rather than attacking straw men. Few people hold that the world's environment is not in trouble, and Athanasiou does not help his cause with this querulous, obvious book.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1996
ISBN: 0-316-05635-9
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1996


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