The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earth's Future

Paul Sabin. Yale Univ., $28.50 (320p) ISBN 978-0-300-17648-3
Using a highly publicized thousand-dollar wager made between two scholars as a narrative framework, this gem of a book elucidates the extreme polarity between those who believe human ingenuity can solve the world's problems and those who foresee imminent doom. Sabin (Crude Politics) cleverly traces the ideological extremes through the careers of Paul Ehrlich, known for his warnings about explosive population growth, and his lesser known adversary Julian Simon, who advocated that technological advancement and flexible markets would resolve threats of overpopulation. Sabin shows the evolution of both arguments through various presidencies. The Carter administration leaned toward Ehrlich's apocalyptic point of view; whereas Reagan thought Simon's theories fit his own, especially in expanded energy production. The contrast between Al Gore and George W. Bush reflects the deepening polarization in the United States over environmental issues. Sabin offers a reasoned summary of the strengths and weaknesses on both sides, but ultimately he is interested in showing "how intelligent people are drawn to vilify their opponents and to reduce the issue that they care about to stark and divisive terms." To this end, Sabin provides a fascinating and highly readable archaeology of political science in America. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/19/2013
Release date: 09/01/2013
Open Ebook - 321 pages - 978-0-300-19888-1
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-300-19897-3
Show other formats
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!