Read The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans by Mark Lynas Free Online
Book Title: The God Species: Saving the Planet in the Age of Humans|
The author of the book: Mark Lynas
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Format files: PDF
The size of the: 463 KB
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Reader ratings: 6.3
Edition: National Geographic
Date of issue: October 4th 2011
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In case you hadn't noticed, the American debate about the major environmental challenges of our times is fundamentally broken. This is the result of a political culture that grows ever more partisan, fueling a discourse that is more vitriolic each day.
On the right, at its worst we have people who deny that any of these issues even exist, preferring the ostrich approach to global problems. At its best, we have people who acknowledge the problems but prefer stalling tactics instead of resolutions, likely to avoid the scorn of their conservative brethren.
The left is often only a little better. While they love to shame "anti-science" Republicans for denying global warming, their ideological blind spots, especially when it concerns agricultural science and nuclear, are just as broad. Even worse, they tend to dip into ideological, anti-market and authoritarian responses to environmental challenges. They insist that people need to radically change their homes, lifestyles and family plans to serve abstract environmental causes that are not relevant to most people. Not only are these unwarranted, they're doomed to failure.
Enter Mark Lynas into this mess. Not only does this book do a masterful job of outlining the state of the pressures that we place on the environment, Lynas does an excellent job of ensuring that proposed solutions are extremely pragmatic. To outline his case, he provides a thorough review of the planetary boundaries platform, which allows his to cover specific human impacts to air-quality, land use, species diversity and environmental change.
Lynas is a former environmental activist who has become quite famous recently for publicly changing his position on GMOs. This attitude pervades his book, and he reserves most of his ire for leftists who continue to take anti-science positions on key environmental issues. This leads to a much more useful polemic. By mostly avoiding debate with the right, he avoids ontological issues and can keep a much sharper focus.
For most, the book is going to be emotionally draining. The sheer scale of our global environmental disaster is disorienting. The sections on species loss are especially harsh, as we are currently witnessing the most rapid extinction event since the end of the dinosaurs. This fact alone, when matched with the public's general ignorance about the issue, is depressing enough, but this is only one of the seven boundaries. To make matters even more pressing, the issues are interrelated. Climate change will accelerate oceanic acidification which will exacerbate species loss. Similar networks exist with the nitrogen cycle and the responsible usage of toxic materials (if there is such a thing).
Lynas's platform for addressing this massive and complex issues is deceptively simple. Human beings must intensify (but limit the expansion) of land use, use technologies to limit chemical emissions (carbon in energy, nitrogen in agriculture and toxins of all forms), and adopt aggressive international accords to implement primarily market-based solutions to major environmental problems. This means financing states and individuals to actually protect endangered flora and fauna, as well as continuing to encourage economic growth in poorer countries. As these countries develop, they will follow a trend similar to their richer neighbors and reduce their environmental impacts. Getting to that point will be costly.
If there is a criticism of Lynas' book, it stems from his platform. Because of its relative simplicity, and the way in which one solution can address multiple problems simultaneously, he has a tendency to repeat himself. Granted, this repetition occurs in ways that flesh out his argument, rather than diminishing it. For example, nuclear power is discussed in the context of climate change and toxics, as it has surprising benefits in both ways. Similarly, GMOs come up in both land use and the nitrogen cycle. And so on.
The public is in terrible need of a discussion along the lines that Lynas proposes in his book. These issues are urgent, and their scale is often difficult to fathom. This is why action along all seven boundaries is urgently needed. Wisely, Lynas ends his book with a triumph in this regard, the story of reducing CFCs in order to protect the ozone layer. Like global warming and nitrogen use, the scale of these problems was immense and demanded action from every country on earth. But accord was reached and humanity banded together to responsibly address its environmental impact. It can be done again. But it will demand an aggressively pragmatic and bold attitude to get us there.
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