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One with Nineveh: Politics, Consumption, and the Human Futureby Paul Ehrlich
Synopses & Reviews
Paul Ehrlich is a rare kind of celebrity: his books, many of them written with partner Anne Ehrlich, have influenced a generation of readers and attracted widespread acclaim, not to mention their share of controversy.
The Ehrlichs' latest collaboration promises to excite their fans, incense their critics, and help set the nation's agenda in the upcoming election season and in subsequent years. One with Nineveh is a fresh synthesis of the Ehrlichs' major themes to date, informed by recent events up to and including the Iraq war, and with a provocative extra dash of politics. With unflinching clarity and directness, it exposes the three elephants in our proverbial living room — overpopulation, overconsumption, and political and economic inequity — that together are increasingly determining today's politics and shaping humankind's future. The authors demonstrate the ways these often-neglected factors influence each other, and reveal how we can begin to create a better and more lasting world if we take them seriously into account.
The book takes its title from Rudyard Kipling's "Recessional" ("Lo, all our pomp of yesterday/Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!"), and alludes to the pride that went before the fall of ancient Mesopotamian civilizations. Their undoing, beyond the impact of warfare, was deforestation and unsustainable irrigation, practices whose destructive effects were ignored by the political and economic elites. The Ehrlichs warn that the hubris of our own civilization could be leading us to an end similar to Nineveh's — whose ruins lie near the Iraqi city of Mosul — if environmental trends such as loss of biodiversity and rapid climate change are not halted. But they also devote a large part of the book to recommending steps to allow humanity, and in particular the world's sole remaining superpower, to alter course and work toward resolving the human predicament.
Filled with bold proposals, incisive analysis, and informative scientific discussions, One with Nineveh is a wide-ranging and thought-provoking account of the major issues of our time, and what we can do about them.
"The Ehrlichs' provocative and eminently readable look at current environmental trends takes its title from Rudyard Kipling's poem 'Recessional,' which contrasts the pomp of the 19th-century British empire to the faded glory of Nineveh, the ancient capital of the Assyrian empire. The Ehrlichs (Betrayal of Science and Reason), both members of Stanford's department of biological sciences, look at the global problems of overpopulation, overconsumption, and political and economic inequity that threaten to make the world into a new fallen Nineveh. Each of the book's nine chapters analyzes one area in detail (using current research in ecology, demographics, migration, economics, biodiversity, ethics, climate, politics and globalization) and then suggests measures 'that might allow humanity in general, and the world's sole remaining superpower in particular, to alter course and work towards achieving a sustainable world.' The prognosis is sometimes depressing: about three-fifths of all important oceanic fish stock has been seriously depleted since 1994; today's global population of six billion is about three times what Ehrlich considers to be the 'optimal' number for the world; profligate consumption threatens to use up nonrenewable natural resources such as oil while governments inhibit the development of renewable sources such as solar power. The current Bush administration is the target of cogent criticism about how it has aided a culture 'dominated by short-term greed,' but Europe and various Third World countries receive their share of criticism as well. A concluding section embraces the philosophy of Martin Luther King Jr. to argue that idealism and individual action can still save the world from massive environmental disaster. Although wide-reaching in range, this is a direct and levelheaded presentation that should get, and deserves, wide readership. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[T]he Ehrlichs manage to be both meticulous and witty as they suggest reforms, and remind us that ours is an astoundingly adaptive species capable of making radical change once we're motivated. So they're doing their best to bestir us." Booklist (Starred Review)
"The Ehrlichs have often been called the ultimate pessimists, but their book is, frankly, heartening." Nature
"[T]he Ehrlichs are right where it counts most: the big picture." San Diego Union Tribune
Book News Annotation:
Authors Paul Ehrlich (Bing Professor of Population Studies and Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University) and Anne Ehrlich intend this book to serve as an alarm klaxon shattering the complacency of the general public and politicians with respect to overpopulation, overconsumption, and the degradation of the worldwide environment. Unfortunately, this noble purpose is sabotaged by some sloppy argument. For example, in a section titled "Technofixes: Nuclear Power?" discussion of the pros and cons of nuclear power mysteriously slides into warnings about the deteriorated state of Russian nuclear armament command-and-control systems, and ends with a non-sequitur call for greater U.S. investment in the maintenance of Russian nuclear submarines. The list of references cited is extensive, but their use is maddeningly haphazard: the number of French deaths in the 2003 heat wave is supported, for example, but a key assertion of Chapter 4, that "most people in both rich and poor countries still view growth in consumption as an unalloyed good," is undocumented.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In One with Nineveh, acclaimed writers Paul and Anne Ehrlich explore how overpopulation, overconsumption, and political and economic inequity are increasingly determining today's politics and shaping humankind's future. The authors demonstrate the ways these often-neglected factors influence each other, and reveal how we can begin to create a better and more lasting world if we take them seriously into account.
Named a Notable Book for 2005 by the American Library Association, One with Nineveh is a fresh synthesis of the major issues of our time, now brought up to date with an afterword for the paperback edition. Through lucid explanations, telling anecdotes, and incisive analysis, the book spotlights the three elephants in our global living room-rising consumption, still-growing world population, and unchecked political and economic inequity-that together are increasingly shaping today's politics and humankind's future. One with Nineveh brilliantly puts today's political and environmental debates in a larger context and offers some bold proposals for improving our future prospect.
About the Author
Paul R. Ehrlich is Bing Professor of Population Studies and Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University. The author of The Population Bomb, Human Natures, and many other books, Ehrlich is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Crafoord Prize (an explicit substitute for the Nobel Prize in fields of science in which the latter is not given).
Anne E. Ehrlich is affiliated with Stanford's Department of Biological Sciences and Center for Conservation Biology. She has served on the board of the Sierra Club and other conservation organizations, has coauthored ten books with her husband, and is a recipient of the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement.
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