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The Environmentalist’s Dilemma: Promise and Peril in an Age of Climate Crisis
Arno Kopeky | ECW Press (Toronto, 2021)
$24.95 | 254pp.
Vancouver area author Arno Kopecky has a problem, and he believes it is a dilemma shared by many of us. We are aware of the slow rolling but lethal train wrecks of climate change, global warming and species extinction. We know the planet is on fire and we are mourning the disappearance of much of the variety and splendor of life.
He reminds us that a 2018 study in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that human-driven climate change and habitat destruction has already exterminated 83 per cent of all mammal species, 50 per cent of plant species and 15 per cent of fish species .
And the great slaughter is just getting started. The United Nations has recently predicted that by the end of the current century over a million species will face extinction. Our children and grandchildren, if they survive at all, will live alone on a poisoned planet swept by violent weather, huddled among the squalid ruins we have left them.
And yet in many ways our century marks a high-water mark for human progress. Democracy, admittedly fragile and currently much assailed, has flourished to an unprecedented degree, abject poverty has been reduced and human life spans have been extended. Meanwhile, “gender equality, food security and public education are spreading around the planet, as are access to medicine and the whole spectrum of a recent invention called human rights.” And for all our missteps and mistakes, the global response to our latest pandemic has been far more successful than the human response to the Black Death in the Middle Ages.
Here’s the dilemma. How are people of conscience to resolve the tension between the two contending truths sketched out above? Are we at the end of days or the dawn of a new era of human progress—or both?
This new book from Kopecky, whose 2014 book The Oil Man and the Sea won the Edna Staebler Award and was shortlisted for several other awards that year, is likely to win the author yet more acclaim. It is lucid, nuanced and challenging as it grapples with the dilemma he is exploring. It is informative without being polemic, and it never yields to the temptation to hector, preach and condemn that is so common in environmental writing. It is also surprisingly funny and touching. All in all, a must read both for both the convinced environmental activist and the enviro skeptic.
Tom Sandborn lives and writes in Vancouver. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at [email protected]
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