Where We Stand: A Surprising Look at the Real State of Our Planet

By Seymour Garte | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
From Bad to Better

If you have been convinced that many things have gotten better over the past two decades, then I have accomplished half of my goal. But it is not enough just to say that things have gotten better. Such a statement could leave the impression that things get better by themselves, that there is some kind of natural repair process that makes environmental problems disappear with time. This philosophy is maintained by many scientists and scholars, and it does have some degree of truth. The atmosphere, the oceans, and the land do have some capacity to repair themselves, thanks to the actions of a myriad of life forms, the wonderful process of natural selection, and the immense complexity of the earth’s biosystems and feedback regulatory processes. But these repair capacities have limits, and when those limits are reached, irreversible damage can result. This has happened repeatedly in the history of the earth, always leading to major changes in the environmental conditions of the planet and attendant disaster for some species of living organisms. There is not much debate regarding the fact that the repair capacity of natural ecosystems can be overwhelmed by intense human activity. Much more controversy surrounds a different sort of “natural” repair: that associated with economic free market forces that some (see chapter 10) have postulated tend to kick in to correct environmental abuse automatically when it reaches a certain level.

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Where We Stand: A Surprising Look at the Real State of Our Planet
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • List of Figures v
  • Preface vii
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Part I - Where We Stand Now- Reasons for Optimism 25
  • Chapter 2 - Health 27
  • Chapter 3 - Environmental Quality 58
  • Chapter 4 - Toxic Substances 80
  • Chapter 5 - Ecology and Biodiversity 104
  • Chapter 6 - Global Welfare and the Human Population 120
  • Part II - Where We Have Been- Historical Lessons 143
  • Chapter 7 - Political Climate and Health 145
  • Chapter 8 - From Bad to Better 171
  • Chapter 9 - Case Histories—Lead, Ozone, Tobacco, Gmos 204
  • Part III - The Way Forward 239
  • Chapter 10 - Environmental Philosophies and World Views 241
  • Epilogue- The Future 265
  • Bibliography 273
  • Index 283
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