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State of the World 1989.

State of the World 1989, by Lester Brown et al. W. W. Norton (1989). Order from Worldwatch Institute, 1776 Massachusetts Ave., Washington, DC 20036. Cloth, $18.95; paper, $9.95; 256 pp.

"Conditions essential to life as we know it are now at risk." That is the message of a book that is surprisingly concrete and realistic in its suggestions for shrinking the risk to acceptable levels.

This is the sixth and most popular in a series of annual reports from Worldwatch Institute. The publishers estimate that the 1989 report will sell over 100,000 copies in many languages, including Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Japanese, and Spanish. It is sure to be the most influential book on the international scene. Whether or not you agree with the Institute's data and analysis' the worldwide distribution of the report that is readable by both professionals and citizen activists means that a good part of the world is going to be making the same argument with the same facts.

The five earlier reports dealt with the same major topics, but without the strong sense of unity that pervades this volume. The major villains are air pollution, desertification, the arms race, population growth, and deforestation. The authors see 1988 as a turning point intellectually and environmentally. Last year we saw an unusual shift in world opinion, World leaders were coming together to make agreements on global pollution. Strong environmental movements came to life in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. The five warmest years of the century came in the 1980s. Prominent scientists announced that global warming had begun. For the first time the United States produced less grain than it consumed.

Certainly critics will challenge the data and the analysis. But it will be much more difficult to set aside the impact of the whole-the perception that one country's problems are every country's problems. The impact of climate on the U.S. grain crop is an obvious example in a world that depends heavily on U.S. exports. And the climate in the U.S. may ultimately depend on what happens to the rainforests of South America.

We have recognized the problems and the consequences of doing nothing. Many people, both conservatives and liberals, have suggested solutions. Many of them are nicely summarized in this book. I doubt that anyone would disagree with its conclusion that "we are moving into a new age.... The outlines of this new age will be defined by choices made in the years immediately ahead." What choices we make will be a question of changing values. It is easy to describe how to change a smokestack or a refrigerant, but we will need 1,000 more books and more than 1,000 points of light to change the world's values.
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Author:Kaufman, Wallace
Publication:American Forests
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1989
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