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Something New Under the Sun
Alex Steffen, 2 Mar 04

Here's another likely candidate for my reading list -- Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the World in the 20th Century:

"Humanity has consumed 10 times more energy since 1900 than in the previous thousand years. John McNeill will probably not appreciate reviewers pointing out this crude, back-of-an-envelope calculation of his, but I suspect he will have to get used to it. It is an extraordinary statistic, and one that should give all who care about the future of our planet pause for thought. People also move more rock and earth around the world than wind, glaciers, mountain-building processes or volcanoes. Only water remains a more effective agent of erosion--just. So numerous and powerful have people become in the twentieth century that we now collectively rank as a geological process."

Anyone read it?

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Wow - that's impressive. No, I haven't read it, thanks for pointing it out!

Posted by: Arthur Smith on 2 Mar 04

I read "Something New Under The Sun" nearly four years ago, before taking my current job as director of ONE/Northwest in Seattle. As someone who was new to the environmental movement, I was looking for a good overview of the huge range of environmental issues I kept running into. This book provides an excellent framework for stepping back to think about these issues on a higher level. It breaks the analysis into various spheres (lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere) and provides some overarching ideas about root causes of many of the problems we face (e.g. the growth of cities, certain types of technology, and philosophical/ideological frameworks).

This book is not for the casual reader. It is 350 pages of fact-filled history and analysis. But I would say it is a very worthwhile read. Author J.R. McNeil does a wonderful job of showing us that the acceleration of various aspects of development has created something with a qualitatively different - and much larger - impact than anything humans have wrought in our history to-date.

Posted by: Gideon Rosenblatt on 3 Mar 04

i was just reading this NG article on "china's growing pains - more money, more stuff, more problems. any solutions?" and it's not mentioned on the page but i thought it had some "world changing" stats:

china / us

area (sq.mi.): 3,705,820 / 3,717,796
pop: 1,288,700,000 / 291,500,000
persons per sq.mi.: 348 / 78
co2 emissions per person (metric tons): 2.5 / 19.8
energy use per person (kg. oil equiv.): 880 / 7,960
tobacco use (%): 35.6 / 23.6
meat consumption per person (lbs.): 104 / 269
paper consumption per person (lbs.): 73 / 730
avg. # of persons per room: 1.1 / 0.5
water use per person* (gal.): 116,000 / 484,500
tv sets per 1,000 persons: 292 / 844
vehicles per 1,000 persons: 16 / 774

*incl. agriculture, industrial, domestic

sources: population reference bureau, world resources institute, UN, WHO

Posted by: reflexorset on 3 Mar 04

I did. It's pretty good. I'd recommend it.

Posted by: Zaid on 9 Mar 04



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