"Earlier this spring a European statistician wrote a book saying that the
global environment is healthy and actually improving. The many
scientists, environmentalists, and citizens who worry about most
environmental problems are misguided, he argued. They just don't
understand nature like he does.
"In spite of the facts that this man is not an expert in the fields he is
critiquing and has been widely discredited by his peers, he has become a
media darling. He has had speaking engagements across North
America, front-page stories, editorials, and more.
"Why is he so popular? Simple: He assuages our guilt about ecological
problems. Like a travelling tonic salesman, he tours the land telling us
what we would prefer to hear, making us feel better about ourselves and
"Contrast that with the United Nations Environment Program's report, 'The
State of the Environment: Past, Present, Future?' released last week. It's
pretty depressing stuff. According to the report, if we follow current trends
of putting the 'market first,' and emphasizing unchecked economic growth,
55 percent of the world's population will suffer from moderate to severe
water shortages by 2032. We'll also lose up to 11,000 species of plants
and animals, including one-quarter of all mammals!
"The report is very comprehensive, offering a variety of near-future
scenarios put together by more than 1,000 scientists from around the
world. As Laszlo Pinter, one of the U.N. report's authors, told the Globe
and Mail, 'This is not just one or two crazy scientists sitting around a table
"Not surprisingly, it has not exactly piqued the media's interest. Oh, it got
its requisite billing as the 'depressing environment story of the day.' But
then it disappeared, shelved with many other such stories in the 'let's not
worry about it right now' file.
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