NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 20, 2005

In "The Real Environmental Crisis: Why Poverty, Not Affluence, Is the Environment's Number One Enemy," Jack Hollander hopes to teach environmentalists that the key to protecting Planet Earth both locally and globally lies in understanding that wealthier nations and peoples improve environmental quality rather than degrade it. This runs contrary to the rhetoric of many environmental organizations.

Where Hollander really brings some fresh air to the "wealthier is healthier" front is on the subject of energy policy:

  • The developed world employs cleaner fuels, such as oil and natural gas, while the poor are stuck with dirty-burning fuels such as wood, coal and animal dung.
  • Wind power and direct solar energy make more sense for the developing world since they do not require the large capital investments for transmission and distribution required with fossil fuels and fossil-fueled electrical power.
  • The environmental benefits of nuclear power could be great, but certain forms of nuclear power create a risk of providing material for terrorist-type activities; therefore, nuclear is simply not viable for the developing world.

While Hollander is correct in much of his approach and theory, he is not ambitious enough in identifying how to make the poor rich, says reviewer J. Bishop Grewell. Furthermore, says Grewell, Hollander struggles with how much government development assistance can do and how much progress must simply come from within the poorer nations. The tangible need to do something, anything, seems to prevent him from asking whether doing something might be worse than doing nothing, says Grewell.

Source: J. Bishop Grewell, Book Review, A Better Earth, April 2005; based upon Jack M. Hollander, "The Real Environmental Crisis: Why Poverty, Not Affluence, Is the Environment's Number One Enemy," University of California Press, 2003.


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