The Optimistic Environmentalist: Progressing Towards a Greener Future
ECW Press (NewSouth), $24.99 pb, 244 pp, 9781770412385
This is a timely and important book, a message of hope when human civilisation is on a metaphorical Titanic steaming toward an ecological iceberg, with the short-sighted or unprincipled throwing coal into the boilers. My heart sank when I saw the title. I expected more mindless cheer-mongering: blanket assertions of faith that human ingenuity and economic growth will solve all our problems. So it was reassuring to find in the introduction a description of Danish statistician Bjørn Lomborg as 'a 21st century snake-oil salesman who has made a lucrative career out of downplaying the world's environmental challenges'. Boyd notes that Lomborg's book The Skeptical Environmentalist (2001) was a bestseller despite its 'absurd arguments', attesting, he suggests, to 'a large appetite for good news, even when the underlying premises are false'. It was not surprising that the Abbott government wanted to bypass the peer review process and fund Lomborg, expecting him to support their blinkered policies. It was depressing to find managers at two Australian universities willing to risk their academic reputation by accepting the government money, until restrained by the outraged reactions of their own staff and graduates.