Playing Safe: Science and the Environment

Overview

Scientists and key scientific disciplines are at the very heart of the debate aboutsustainable development. With particular reference to climate change, genetic engineering, and toxic chemicals, Jonathon Porritt's provocative dissection of the risks and benefits of scientific advance is essential reading, not only for scientists and environmentalists but also for everyone concerned about our future world.
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Softcover UNUSED, LIKE NEW, NOT EX-LIBRARY, Sticker Stain, 144 pages. Addresses the question of how to assess the risks and benefits of scientific advance through three topics: ... climate change, genetic engineering and toxic chemicals. It advises a cautious approach in applying scientific knowledge as we try to improve the world around us. *****PLEASE NOTE: This item is shipping from an authorized seller in Europe. In the event that a return is necessary, you will be able to return your item within the US. To learn more about our European sellers and policies see the BookQuest FAQ section***** Read more Show Less

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Overview

Scientists and key scientific disciplines are at the very heart of the debate aboutsustainable development. With particular reference to climate change, genetic engineering, and toxic chemicals, Jonathon Porritt's provocative dissection of the risks and benefits of scientific advance is essential reading, not only for scientists and environmentalists but also for everyone concerned about our future world.
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Editorial Reviews

KLIATT
This provocative book by a British environmentalist and former director of Friends of the Earth is part of a future-looking series, Prospects for Tomorrow. Although not a scientist, Porritt takes a generally well-informed look at three problem areas—toxic chemical production, climate change, and potential health hazards involved in genetic engineering. Our planet is in trouble, he reminds us, and he repeatedly asks: How can modern science—which has helped create the problems—help solve them? What do scientists doing research in these areas say we need to do? Porritt offers astute general readers a sense of how hard it is to separate politics from science as he explores the relationship between science, government, politics, and economics. Despite the old notion of science as an objective quest for truth—and scientists as akin to gods—science, Porritt emphasizes, is actually quite value-laden and scientists themselves are like other mortals, susceptible to the profit motive and the tide of "politically correct" views. Furthermore, Porritt is disturbed by the fact that while research on climate change is largely government driven, much of that on toxic chemicals and genetic engineering is done by companies with a commercial self-interest. On the other hand, Porritt is not anti-science; in fact, his arguments are studded with references to well-documented studies and his citations are accurate, for the most part. He stresses that while scientists must change (by advocating a more precautionary approach to science as a whole and becoming individually more compassionate, independent, and participatory), their role is vital in meeting the challenge ofsustainability. There is a particularly interesting section on risk assessment—and how irrational many people are in terms of recognizing and addressing real risks (e.g., from smoking) versus minimal ones (e.g., exposure to radiation from nuclear power plants). Porritt conveys a reasonable skepticism about genetically engineered foods, but avoids paranoia. American readers may puzzle a bit over the many Briticisms, including expressions ("lard into that"), spellings ("organisations"), organizations (various scientific agencies in the UK), and an abundance of UK-centered issues (the mad cow fiasco). KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Norton/Thames & Hudson, 143p, 22cm, 99-66984, $12.95. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Gloria Levine; Freelance Education Writer, Potomac, MD, November 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 6)
From The Critics
Porritt, a British environmentalist, debates the dangers presented by toxins and micropollutants, changes in the climate, and the genetic engineering of plants. He views science as the heart of an inherently destructive model of progress, while simultaneously looking to science to provide answers to otherwise intractable problems. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
An attack on the "medical-industrial" complex by a British environmentalist who was the director of Friends of the Earth from 1984 to 1990. Porritt's voice tends to extremes—from jeremiads of doom to hymns in praise of Gaia (the earth goddess). Chernobyl, mad cow disease, toxic waste dumps, and antibiotic-resistant microbes are glaring examples of environmental disasters that result from neglect, duplicity, foolhardiness, and arrogance. Porritt condemns the kind of agricultural monoculturism that has led to the abuse of pesticides, and he points out that the same danger is posed by inducing pest resistance through the genetic modification of plants. He is equally concerned about the use of growth hormones and antibiotics in plants and animals. In general, Porritt tends to fault contemporary science as reductionist and value-free, and he worries that most geneticists espouse a doctrinaire and highly pernicious brand of genetic determinism. His arguments are not fully convincing, however. While he is correct in pointing out that humans are carrying some load of toxic chemicals that may contribute to cancer, he makes no mention of the particular lifestyle choices (i.e., tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and poor diets) that may be even more important contributing factors. He considers the global-warming argument (that climate changes are being brought on through the use of fossil fuels and the waste of resources), but he has little to say about population growth and the theory that it may be the ultimate destroyer of species and the planet's largesse. In this context, the issue of sustainability seems all but a lost cause. For the most part, Porritt views science as arrogant,lackingin compassion, not open to public participation or scrutiny, and far from holistic. Leaving aside what scientists themselves might say in response, one wonders whether such accusations will do any good in the end.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780500280737
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson
  • Publication date: 7/28/2000
  • Series: Prospects for Tomorrow Series
  • Pages: 112
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 7
Ch. 1 Science in the Environment 10
Ch. 2 Wholes and Parts 24
Ch. 3 Weighing up the Risks 36
Ch. 4 Toxic Shocks 47
Ch. 5 Climate Science 63
Ch. 6 The Genetics Revolution 75
Ch. 7 The Science of Sustainability 92
Ch. 8 The Politics of Environmental Science 105
Ch. 9 Science without a Soul 117
Ch. 10 Two Cultures: One World 128
Select Bibliography and Sources 139
Index 141
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