Scarcity or Abundance: A debate on the environment

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Now that the fear of global nuclear holocaust has receded it is difficult to imagine any issues of greater significance for planetary survival that thsoe debated in this book. It is also difficult to imagine two more different views of that prospect than those expressed by our two authors, Julian Simon and Norman Myers.

The first tell a story of environmental plenty if not bliss, of progressive improvement in the human condition. The reassurance voiced by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his inaugural address, "that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" aptly captures Simon's message. Human ingenuity and institutional adaptation in the long run are the most powerful forces of all, he insists, prompting opportunity and the search for solutions.

The second story tells a story of ecological degradation this is potentially catastrophic in its effect. It is a few seconds before midnight, and the erosion if not collapse of planetary life-support systems, species extinction, and the material and spiritual impoverishment of humankind are but ticks away. "We are now playing God, " Myers concludes, and will pay the price unless we cease and desist...

Humankind does not know whether Simon is right or Myers. We must come to know. Our collective existence could hang in the balance.

from the43 forward by John Gerard Ruggie Columbia University

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