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Showing 1-10 of 12 reviews(4 star). See all 70 reviews
on 19 October 2010
A very heavy read, but that is what I expected. This book is full of facts and figures, stats and charts. Ironically, it gave me a more balanced view of the "Big Green Hoax". I have a healthy respect for the environment, but hate the way it is used to justify all manner of ridiculous ideas. Lomborg makes his argument very well that we must care for the planet, but that is not the same as "we're all doomed!". A thoroughly worthwhile read.
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on 5 September 2005
It is very challenging to write meaningful things on a very controversial yet brilliant book such as Lomborg's.
I personally thoroughly enjoyed it - much because it challenges many paradigms, some of which I considered unquestioned truths.
The controversy arises as the topics tackled in Lomborg's book are both extremely difficult to assess objectively and also politically charged. The debate about global warming, for example - of which Lomborg also claims there is sufficient evidence - is very much today's news and yet (Lomborg reminds us) still too much there is to know about it to make sensible plans to tackle the issue. Significant resources are being spent - or soon going to be spent - in addressing it and yet we are not really sure it is all actually going to make things better. It is infact possible that ill-conceived actions may actually make it worse, if not because of direct effects of those actions, because of the "opportunity cost" of wasting resources that would otherwise be better used in tackling more pressing and valuable issues. Sometimes inaction is better than wrong actions; politics often require that "something must be done" - lack of facts or understanding is not accepted as a reason to do otherwise.
The fundamendal principles that Lomborg advocates are unquestionable:
* We must make the most of scarce resources.
* We must have the correct information to make the right decisions on how to use these scarce resources to their maximum benefit.
The devil, as they say, is in the detail, for example in obtaining the "correct information". In that, I find Lomborg's book at its best when it challenges a lot of conventional wisdom about "information correctness". Even if one could in principle refute data and conclusions in the book (as I am sure there will be tons of paper written on that), healthy skepticism of what is presented as "unquestioned truth" is what made mankind progress from the dark ages onwards.
Be prepared for some heavy reading at times (lots of data and tables) but overall a very fluid and enjoyable book.
Highly recommended!
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on 30 March 2006
Anxiety and confusion are wholly proper responses to our tangled world, not least because, as Lomborg points out, wherever we go for information or reassurance we are inevitably fed a stealthy spin or a nuggett of propaganda. Lomberg attempts to correct the balance of some of the most vexed arguments regarding the state of the planet and the dangers we face, and it is an honourable enterprise. I can't say whether his conclusions are necesarily more right than any others (though in many ways I hope so), but to be preoccupied with the truth and who has it is to miss the point; the necessity is to retain one's scepticism at all times, listen all sides of a debate and remember that everybody, yes everybody, is pushing an agenda.
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on 17 May 2011
I bought this book to help me write a Uni assignment on global warming, and I have to say I was very impressed with it. It's so refreshing to read something different from the depressing, media-driven take on the world's environmental issues. It's not like Lomborg hasn't done his research either; this book is packed with references to real journals and articles written by real scientists and people who know what they're talking about. I found it so interesting, that even after I'd finished the assignment I carried on reading it! I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who would like to know what's REALLY going on with the world's environment, and not just what the media tell us!
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on 19 December 2012
Lomborg's book is a fascinating read, and for the most part convincing. However I find it an odd title.

The two relevant definitions from The Free Dictionary of an environmentalist are:

2. a person who is concerned with the maintenance of ecological balance and the conservation of the environment
3. (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Environmental Science) a person concerned with issues that affect the environment, such as pollution

Lomborg's overwhelming concern is, however, the well-being of the human race and human happiness. Laudable as this goal is, it is not strictly speaking environmentalism. Lomborg himself admits that the well-being of other species is only considered inasmuch as it affects human endeavour and happiness - and the more human life, the better.

That said, the book is full of fascinating arguments and data and his approach - based on statistical evidence and prioritisation - is one I fundamentally agree with. There is no point in pouring all your resources into attempting to solve something that isn't a problem and ignoring others that are. And the argument that the lot of the human race has improved, and is improving, is quite convincing and in keeping with most people's person experience. Who had it harder, your grandparents or you? Most would agree that health, food, salaries, working conditions and other quality-of-life indicators have all improved over their family's generations.

The chapter on global warming was the one that most failed to convince me. Throughout most of the book, Lomborg quotes the UN, WHO etc. whose conclusions back up his views. But here, Lomborg shows himself at odds with the IPCC, and uses a multitude of arguments as to why their estimates must overshoot the mark. Undoubtedly his arguments are valid ones. But I feel he consistently chooses to only show us uncertainties that may reduce the estimate rather than those that may cause it to be underestimated. In many cases, it almost goes like "we don't know what clouds do, so they must make warming smaller". He may be right, but his bias shows.

Finally, Lomborg is a statistician and an economist. He has a unwavering faith in the good of a free-market economy that I don't quite share. If something isn't happening in a free market, then it cannot (by his definition) be worthwhile. I also feel there's some double-counting of costs going on in places - such-and-such a change will cost this many billions of dollars *and* all these bad things will happen; but it seems more likely that the monetary cost is the fraction of GDP that must be invested to make sure the latter things *do not* occur.

The great thing about this book though is it makes you think and question. Don't take all the arguments given by the environmental movement, or by Lomborg, at face value. Avoid gut reactions and consider what is the most effective way to preserve and protect the environment - *and* improve the human lot.
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on 6 November 2002
This is a fascinating book if you read it with an objective mind. Lomborg dwells with the inaccuracies that have enabled some environmentalists and activists to present an excessively bleak picture of the effects of pollution, overpopulation, global warming, food shortages, reduction of biodiversity, etc. One has to bear in mind that the author started his research when he was an environmentalist at Greenpeace.
He utilizes statistical and economic models to present us another view about these subjects and the real dangers we have to confront in the world, using mostly official figures of the U.N., World Bank and environmentalist organizations. According to the author, there are problems that we must approach in a scientific manner, but we might have never been better off compared with other periods of humanity.
Life expectation has doubled in developed countries in just a century (increasing 50% in less developed ones). Never so much food has been produced and population growth is slower relatively, than the reduction of cereal production. According to FAO figures the rainforests are not in the brink of extinction. On the contrary, since WWII, forests have actually grown by 0.85 %. Lomborg also analyzes in depth figures related with the water problem and pollution. Global warming effect gets a fairer treatment.
The Kyoto protocol could only provide a very marginal difference in temperature rise.
If you want to balance the inflammatory literature we are getting used to read, with another perspective, I would recommend this book. But of course, politicians, regional interests, and fanatics are contaminating constantly what should be a real and transparent debate, from the scientific standpoint, to insure a better future and the right policies for a healthier world..........
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on 10 April 2002
Well done Bjorn Lomborg, a timely and compelling alternative to what was becoming a dangerously one sided debate. As a scientist with a water background I found Lomborg's analysis of this one area where I can claim expertise to be excellent.
Certainly there are places where he over simplifies, but then to write about the state of the whole earth you have to simplify.
Despite the reams of rebuttals and name calling I have yet to any suggestion that the overblown prophecies he attributes to the big guns of the Litany weren't made - just that they've since modified their positions.
So thank you to Bjorn Lomborg for writing this important book and for re-energising the debate, and thank you also for giving us 'the Litany'!
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on 21 March 2003
Bjorn Lomborg, Associate Professor of Statistics at Denmark's Aarhus University, aims to allow us to see the real state of the world more clearly by confronting myths with data. He seeks to use only the best available statistical information from internationally recognised research institutes: 2930 references and a 70-page bibliography attest to the depth of his research into health, life expectancy, food, forests, resources, pollution and global warming.
For example, we are constantly told that our forests are vanishing, but according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the world's forests covered 40.24 million square kilometres in 1950, and 43.04 million in 1994. 80% of the world's original rainforest is still intact. Lomborg explodes the Greens' litany of disaster and their liberal contempt for productive forces; he shows how wonderfully creative workers are, and how technological progress brings great benefits. Listening to some Greens, you would think that our factories produced only pollution! In the historic debate between the anti-industry parson Malthus and the pro-industry Marx, Lomborg is clearly with Marx.
Unfortunately, Lomborg mistakenly credits 'market economies', not workers' creativity, for this progress, although, as he notes, the most important welfare improvement of the last 50 years was achieved in post-revolutionary China, and the most significant worsening of welfare has happened in post-counter-revolutionary Russia and Eastern Europe.
Some environmentalists mistakenly damn GM foods, pesticides, the chlorination of water and vaccination, technological achievements that all help to save us from killer diseases. As Lomborg points out, nobody has died from eating GM foods, or from cancer caused by pesticides, or from chlorination or vaccination. Banning GM foods and pesticides would reduce yields of fruit and veg, making them dearer and diets worse, and would therefore increase deaths from cancer. Peru didn't chlorinate its water, which resulted in the cholera epidemic of 1991. Falling rates of vaccination are increasing the risks of lethal epidemics.
He does not ignore the huge problems facing the world: every year, ten million children under the age of five die of preventable diseases; 1.1 billion people still have no clean drinking water, and 2.5 billion have no access to sanitation. But to solve these problems, we need a clear-headed prioritisation of resources, not counsels of despair.
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on 21 February 2003
Having worked in an area that is well aware of environmetal issues (the timber industry) I read this book with an understanding of at least some of the issues. Those of us who work with timber know full well that the "facts" concerning sustainability/deforestation etc are presented in the media entirely one way ie: as the ENGO's say it is without question. There is no point attempting to present alternative views because the media will ignore them. The ENGO's themselves (privately of course) admit they are selective with their statistics and certainly are not impartial - they have a very strong vested interest to keep the bad news coming - it generates membership income for one thing!
As to the book itself - it is not without its flaws, it is very detailed and you would need to have a PhD in maths to really understand all the details, but the key messages are quite simple.
There ARE most certainly man-made negative impacts on the earth, but they are in the main nowhere near as bad as most people would believe.
There are large improvments in many key indicators - life expectancy, pollution, reducing birth rates etc. Whilst these are most noticeable in the developed world they are gradually spreading to the developing world.
The real challenges are to do with poverty and some quite low-key, inexpensive improvments would make a huge improvment to the quality of life of many people eg: provision of clean drinking water in West Africa.
The reason I called the review the "The New Darwin" is beacuse of the reaction of some environmentalists. How dare anyone question the "religion" that surrounds this issue. Why should "the facts" get in the way of an emotional appeal. There has been no balanced debate on these issues, certainly not in the mass media and this book is very thought provoking.
One final thought - if the accepted wisdom concerning the view that the earth is doomed and its all mans fault can be challenged so fundamentally it makes you wonder what else that the media has beaten into everyone as "the truth". Maybe we should start questioning all sorts of things, I believe that "pravda" means "truth" in Russian, this gives us a whole new take on things.
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on 22 October 2014
Ahead of his time and scorned as prophets often are.
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