Cambridge Programme for Industry interview
by Wayne Visser on behalf of Cambridge Programme for Industry for the Cambridge Top 50 Sustainability Books project, 26 August 2008
WV: So if you're ready I'll kick off with a question. It's really just a reflective this on what brought you to write the book in the first place and how has it been received since.
BL Yes. Well obviously... Well not obviously, but I came from a background as I think many or even most from the western world of deep concern for the environment and a pretty general sort of background understanding of the world being in peril and certainly headed the wrong way. I read an interview with an American economist called Julian Simon back in 1997 who said things are actually getting better in many indicators, not worse. And my sense was ah, must be right-wing American propaganda. But he said it so well and had some good data that I thought it would actually be fun to disprove him. So I set out with some of my students in the Fall of '97 to show that this was wrong. And... We were absolutely sure that it was wrong, we were just sure we would have fun debunking him. As it turned out he clearly was right-wing and he clearly had some things that were wrong, but a lot of what he said was actually true. And that was really the background for the book that I felt if you consistently have an incorrect understanding of where the world is headed it’s unlikely that we worry about the right things and that we actually take the right measures. So my book was both a point of saying, 'Listen in many ways the environment is getting better. In many ways things are not as bad as you think'. This does not mean that there are no problems, but it means we can stop panicking and start thinking smartly about where can we do the most good. Which problems should we be focusing on first and which kinds of solutions should we be picking to do the most good, presumably that being the goal that all of us share. (...)
As the book is published in 2009, you will be able to read the entire interview here.