Ian Lowe reviews 'The Optimistic Environmentalist' by David R. Boyd

Ian Lowe reviews 'The Optimistic Environmentalist' by David R. Boyd

The Optimistic Environmentalist: Progressing Towards a Greener Future

by David R. Boyd

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.

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Published in March 2016, no. 379
Ian Lowe

Ian Lowe

Ian Lowe is emeritus professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University and holds adjunct appointments at two other universities. He has filled a wide range of advisory roles in Australia, is author of twelve books and over 100 other publications, and is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. He has been a reviewer for several global environmental studies and in 2009 the International Academy of Sciences, Health and Ecology awarded him the Konrad Lorenz Gold Medal.

Comments (1)

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    Dear Mr. Environment Editor

    in celebration of the 500th birthday of 'Utopia' written by Thomas More in 1516, a new 'Green Utopia' book is soon to be released by Arcade Publishers, NY, which contains 100 graphic artworks of 100 ecocities of the future, including Sydney, Perth, Wellington, and a host of famous European, Asian and American cities which have been re-forested or Green-teched to be super ecofriendly. More information at:



    Alan Marshall, BSc (hons), M.Phil. Ph.D.

    Thursday, 10 March 2016 23:11 posted by Dr. Alan Marshall

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