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A Crisis of Pessimism

November 2003

Citation: 33 ELR 10857

Issue: 11

Author: Jack M. Hollander

Can you remember a day when you opened your morning newspaper without finding a dramatic and disturbing story about some environmental crisis that's either here already or lurks just around the corner? That would be a rare day. On one day the story may be about global warming, on the next it may be about overpopulation, or air pollution, or resource depletion, or species extinction, or sea-level rise, or nuclear waste, or toxic substances in our food and water. Especially jarring is the implication in most of these stories that you and I are the enemy—that our affluent life styles are chiefly responsible for upsetting nature's balance, polluting our cities, skies, and oceans, and squandering the natural resources that sustain us. Unless we change our thoughtless and wasteful ways, we are reminded, the earth will become a very inhospitable place for ourselves and our progeny.

Such media reportage reflects the pervasive pessimism about the future that has become the hallmark of today's environmental orthodoxy. Its central theme is that the affluent society, by its very nature, is the polluting society—the richer we become, the more we consume the earth's scarce resources, the more we overcrowd the planet, the more we pollute the earth's precious land, air, and water. The clear implication of this viewpoint is that the earth was a better place before humans were around to despoil it.

This Article appears as the introductory chapter to JACK M. HOLLANDER, THE REAL ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS: WHY POVERTY, NOT AFFLUENCE, IS THE ENVIRONMENT'S NUMBER ONE ENEMY (University of California Press 2003), available at http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/9208.html (last visited Sept. 11, 2003). Jack M. Hollander is a professor emeritus of energy and resources at the University of California, Berkeley. Author or coauthor of over 100 research publications and editor of 20 books, Dr. Hollander has undertaken basic research in nuclear structure physics, energy and environment research, academic administration, and science and technology development. A 1951 Berkeley Ph.D. in chemistry, he was one of Berkeley's early researchers in the environmental sciences in the 1960s and first director of both the Berkeley Laboratory's Energy and Environment Division and the systemwide University of California Energy Institute. In the mid-1970s, he served as director of the first (and only) national energy study carried out by the National Academy of Sciences, and for 17 years was editor of the independent book series Annual Review of Energy and the Environment. Dr. Hollander served for 12 years as chairperson of the Swedish Academy's International Institute of Energy and Human Ecology, based in Stockholm. He was also cofounder of the independent American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). During the 1980s, Dr. Hollander served as vice president for research and graduate studies at Ohio State University. He was the recipient of two Guggenheim fellowships, in 1958 and 1966.

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