March 28, 2021
After two years of work and three months of hard editing, my new book, Environmental Organizations and Reasoned Discourse, is now in press at Palgrave – Macmillan. The “hard editing” required reducing the manuscript from 138,000 words to 119,000 in order to satisfy publishing constraints. That reduction was difficult to make. The book will be a contribution to the Palgrave series on “Environmental Politics and Theory.” It should be out this Summer in both print and e-book versions. The theme is that our environmental NGOs have pushed our discourse into being “fair and reasoned,” but we now need a stronger effort on a global scale. For this effort, I am indebted to four anonymous reviewers who forced me into rewriting better drafts.
For this effort, I tried to emphasize a few important points:
- Our society has developed clear understandings of the criteria we require for fair and reasoned social environmental discourse. We now need to consistently exam our policy decisions in light of these requirements. Clarity with respect to these criteria is the key to our society making effective efforts at restoration and preservation.
- Our environmental advocacy organizations have provided the key elements to our fair and reasoned discourse. They have identified our problems and monitored our progress in restorations. Some of our older more established organizations (Sierra Club, Audubon Society, Environmental Defense Fund as some examples) have provided heroic environmental efforts, but smaller and less recognized organizations, such as Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, have also been essential at important preservations.
- We currently need to recognize, however, that we face a likely and almost immediate “tragedy of the global commons.” For sure this tragedy involves our oceans and atmosphere, but we also have severe cross-border political problems involving our major river systems such as the Nile, the Mekong, and the Danube. Consequently, we need to further build and strengthen organizations that act globally, and that will be capable of recognizing our critical cross-border problems of environmental destruction. Geenpeace, The Nature Conservancy, and a few other organizations have in part addressed some of these global problems, which are massive and will overwhelm us if we ignore them.
Among the problems we face with respect to our significant river systems are those associated with hydro-power dams. At first look, hydro power certainly appears to be an attractive alternative to fossil fuel use, but at second look we find that its costs in environmental degradation are considerable. China, for example, has built multiple dams on the Upper Mekong, and these will potentially destroy the Mekong Delta’s aqua culture and rice farming, both of which have become essential for Southeast Asia. Similarly, Ethiopia’s gigantic dams on the Upper Nile are already having significant destructive effects on the Nile Delta farming. Problems such as these remind us of the principle I (and many of us) learned in undergraduate resource economics back in the early 1970s, i.e. environmental economics and resource economics must be viewed as integrated subjects. Managing our resources well should mean managing our environment better.
This principle is also illustrated by our problem of managing our globe’s large forests – our “carbon sinks.” The Tongas National Forest is a Pacific rain forest in Alaska where old-growth fir and spruce trees might be clear cut. A similar forest, the Brazilian Rain Forest is being burned for agricultural clearing. Both are global resources which must be preserved in our battle against greenhouse gases and global warming.
I hope you all reflect on the National Academy of Science’s recent report “Reflecting Sunlight: Recommendations for Solar Geoengineering Research and Research Governance,” (2021). (You can easily find this by “googling” the title.) MIT also issued a report a year ago that reviewed the potential difficulties with this possible geoengineering solution to global warming, but the consensus now is that we had better discuss the possibilities for “hacking the earth’s atmosphere.” The full report is about to be available from The National Academies Press. The possible solutions explored include (a) adding small reflective particles to our atmosphere, (b) increasing reflective cloud cover in our lower atmosphere, and (c) thinning high altitude clouds that absorb heat. As you should expect, all are very skeptical about unintended consequences. In all seriousness, perhaps we need another round of science fiction movies such as the 1950s’ The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Thing just to aid us in our “reasoned social discourse.”
If you read my new book, and of course I hope you will find it enlightening, please contact me about any suggestions concerning ancillaries that might be passed on to others, perhaps other readings or videos concerning the subjects addressed. I would appreciate all reasoned suggestions.
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