SHiPS Resource Center ||   BOOK BRIEF

reviewed 6/93 Ecology, Economics, Ethics: The Broken Circle. F. Herbert Bormann and Stephen R. Kellert, eds. Yale Univ. Press (1991). ISBN 0-300-04976-5 $26.50 cloth.

"In America, each year," Paul Connett informs us in his chapter on "The Disposable Society, "we throw away 1.6 billion pens, 2 billion disposable razors, 16 billion diapers, 22 plastic grocery bags, and enough paper to build a twelve-foot-high wall from New York City to Los Angelos." While these statistics are dramatic--and many in this volume are--Connett dwells on the ethical implications, and even more importantly, on the economics. What are the costs of landfills, and their alternatives, incineration and source separation/resource recovery--and how do we encourage the later? This pragmatic approach, which seeks to understand how to solve our environmental problems, permeates this volume and gives it a certain sophistication over sources that merely detail the problems themselves. It is a good guide, therefore, for showing students how we transform our biological knowledge into active, well-informed public policy and business decisions.

Only one chapter is exclusively devoted to ethics. In it, Holmes Rolston explores how we are gradually led to expand our ethical circle of value from humans, to higher animals, to all organisms, to species (as natural units), and finally to ecosystems as wholes. His strategy of sequentially revealing new layers of value is especially helpful in an educational setting, where "awareness" is everywhere, but where the underlying values must be built firmly, slowly and step-wise. This one chapter, then, provides a rough scenario for a series of 2-4 classroom discussions.

Three chapters address species diversity and range from the prevalent arguments about how we value other species to the problems of "triage" in saving species. One paper asks how we can transform our notion of global security from a military to ecological kind, with a corresponding shift in budgets. Additional chapters address agriculture (vs. harvest from natural systems), alternatives to pesticides, groundwater, acid rain, and using financial incentives to discourage or control pollution.

This volume is based on a series of lectures (with record attendance) at Yale in 1989; its contributors include some of the most distinguished in the field. While the book is a bit costly for personal use, its comprehensiveness and timeliness should make it a good selection for school libraries and student reference.

--Douglas Allchin

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