In This Review
A Moment on the Earth: The Coming Age of Environmental Optimism

A Moment on the Earth: The Coming Age of Environmental Optimism

By Gregg Easterbrook

Viking, 1995, 745 pp.

Twenty-three informative chapters on all the major environmental topics, ranging alphabetically from acid rain to water. A recurrent theme is that newspapers and popular magazines report prominently any claim regarding bad or worsening environmental conditions but downplay news about good or improving conditions, thus leaving ordinary citizens with the badly incorrect impression that environmental conditions have been seriously worsening. The book suggests considerable optimism about the future, based not on policies of inaction, but on action well thought out.

Written by a self-styled political liberal, this book is long, fact-filled, and sensible, staking out what the author calls "ecorealism." He credits the environmental movement for generating useful political pressure for action, which has gained wide political support in Europe and North America in the last three decades and has stimulated useful environment-improving technological changes. However, "environmentalists, who are surely on the right side of history, are increasingly on the wrong side of the present, risking their credibility by proclaiming emergencies that do not exist." He deplores the hype, exaggerations, and downright lies perpetrated by some so-called environmentalists, for whom environmental damage simply provides the latest handle to attack the capitalist system.