by John Berlau, Nashville, TN: Nelson Current, 2006, 250pp, $26.
the cartoon of an eco-freak on the cover and some simian on the
back cover, as well as the title itself, made me think this book
was a lightweight. In fact, it was both easy to read fast, well-referenced
in academic style, has a good index, and is mostly accurate. True,
there were some odd sentences, an occasional transitive verb with
no object, and the repetitive use of "decimate" when destroy
or damage was meant. Sadly, there were no photos, tables, graphs
or charts whatever. Nevertheless, I recommend it highly for being
on the technically correct side of most of the wrenching environmental
1 (of just 7) is an introduction to the general excesses of environmentalism,
including a first look at the tendency of environmentalists of today
for calls to spend tax money to protect every single species on
Earth except humans.
2 exposes Rachel Carson's Silent
Spring as the mistake-ridden diatribe it is. When I first
read it about 45 years ago as a graduate student at M.I.T. I said
to a friend that I doubted that more than 20% of the claims were
accurate. Berlau does a fine job of making me look too kind, especially
on the banning of DDT, a political act. For confirmatory hard facts
in a peer-reviewed journal see J. Gordon Edwards, DDT:
A Case Study in Scientific Fraud, Journal of American Physicians
and Surgeons 2004;9(3):83–8.
3 explains the societal fit over asbestos in the USA with flair.
If the common chrysotile asbestos in the USA were toxic, I would
have died 15–30 years ago from having inhaled vast amounts
of it for years. Its beautiful helical crystals are easily seen
with a microscope, so different from the sharp-edged and dangerous
crocidolite and pulled-taffy Fiberglas™. Berlau explains how
our most modern buildings have lost fire protection by not having
asbestos, how abatement has released what should have been left
alone, and how $billions were transferred, 60% to attorneys, by
lawsuits run amok.
4 defends mass use of the large, heavy automobile in the USA. Berlau
shows that cars contribute little to "global warming,"
recommending the books of S. Fred Singer and Dennis Avery: Unstoppable
Global Warming: Every 1500 Years, 2006, and Patrick Michaels'
The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians
and the Media. This is the one topic on which Berlau and
I disagree a little. He seems to advocate the choice of heavy, truck-based
SUVs for their protection and space, pointing out that most people
stuck in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina had no cars. Because
such vehicles can manage only 10–18 mpg on the highway, I oppose
them. Any gain from them in collision protection is lost by those
in vehicles struck by them. The collision protection of even the
newer 4600-lb Ford Explorer is worse than that of a Sienna, Odyssey
or Montana, or even a Passat, Audi A6 or SAAB 9-5 wagon (Injury,
Collision, & Theft Losses, Sep, 2006, Highway Loss Data
5: "Reagan Was Right: Forests Cause Pollution" was not
as outrageous as it sounded. Fire danger, lack of food for deer,
and enviro laws that waste wood are all explained well.
6 shows how the failure to build floodgates of the type used in
the Netherlands or seriously raise levee heights doomed New Orleans
to the damage of hurricane Katrina in 2005. Also, the use of wetlands
as protection was shown to be flawed in concept. Besides corruption,
enviro obstruction of protection of the city is laid out in gruesome
detail. Enviro attacks on dams are shown to ignore the 3 benefits
of flood control, irrigation and power generation.
7 describes a hideous future if eco-terrorism really takes hold,
and the killings by the Unabomber are one example given, along with
extreme acts of animal rights types. Berlau makes it clear that
the Earth- and Animal Liberation Front organizations are the number-one
domestic terrorism threat, according to the FBI. The "Precautionary
Principle" is shown to be misused by ignoring known dangers
of not doing something and acting on hypothetical dangers of doing
might have done more to give examples of good works of environmentalism
in the past to contrast with the undeniable excesses of the present.
Still a worthwhile book.
M. Kauffman [send him mail]
is Professor of Chemistry Emeritus at the University of the Sciences