Making Peace with the Planet

A critique of the recent efforts to address and control environmental damage from the country’s best-known environmentalist

“I regard him as right and compassionate on nearly every major issue.” —Stephen J. Gould, The New York Times Book Review

In his monumental bestsellers, The Closing Circle and Science and Survival, Barry Commoner was one of the first scientists to alert us to the hideous environmental costs of our technological development. Now, twenty years later, Commoner reviews the vast efforts made in the public and private spheres to address and control the damage done and shows us why, despite billions of dollars spent to save the environment, we now find ourselves in an even deeper crisis. It is a book of hard facts and figures whose conclusion—that environmental pollution can be prevented only through fundamental redesign of the way we produce goods—demands basic changes all across America, from the highest offices in Washington, D.C., to your own kitchen garbage can.

If, in the sixties and seventies, an eco-revolution seemed afoot, Commoner now documents how short we have fallen. Attempts to reshape consumer patterns have been halfhearted, there have been terrible miscalculations in government policy (and in environmental organization strategies), and we still face the deliberate resistance of private industry to change.

Despite these problems, Commoner argues convincingly for the key role still to be played by community organizations in scrutinizing and directing environmental action.

Translating technical information into digestible form, Commoner takes us step by step through an EPA “environmental impact” review, breaks down the arguments for and against incineration, explains dioxin, Bhopal, auto emission controls, mercury poisoning, the greenhouse effect, and the Byzantine calculation of “acceptable risk”—in ways that show how each of these factors affects all of us.

With a new introduction by the author, Making Peace with the Planet makes a clear and impassioned plea for us to stop wasting money and precious nonrenewable resources, including time.