The Future of the Earth: An Introduction to Sustainable Development for Young Readers, by Yann Arthur-Bertrand ($16.95, cloth, 76 pages; Harry N. Abrams Inc., 2004; ISBN: 0810950189)
It is sad indeed that writers and photographers can so cleverly use the vast beauty of the Earth to promote wrong-headed, doomsday, collectivist philosophies. In previous issues of Environment & Climate News, I described such malevolence in my reviews of Fatal Harvest (March 2003) and America’s Living Oceans (October 2003).
The Future of the Earth may be the most insidious of all because its target audience is young people between the ages of 10 and 12, who are susceptible to big pictures, big print, and oversimplified concepts. Young persons who have yet to grasp a significant perspective of our history can be easily taken in by the excellent prose and attractive pictures and drawings in this book.
Pestilent Good Old Days
The reader is quickly told of “the good old days” when all of life was better and the Earth was pristine, before fossil fuels destroyed our atmosphere. The authors conveniently forget to describe, for example, life in New York City in 1900, when 100,000 horses walked the streets, creating 2.5 million pounds of manure requiring daily disposal, when 15,000 horses annually died in the city, requiring sanitary disposal, or the filth and disease that horse transportation bred, all of which amply prove the inaccuracy of that fable.
Simultaneously, these young minds are taught class envy by the authors’ explanation of the unfairness of the fact that 20 percent of the Earth’s inhabitants share 80 percent of the world’s riches.
Politics Overcome Science
The Future of the Earth cavalierly teaches the worst global warming scenarios, using inaccurate greenhouse physics. It vilifies agriculture for spoiling the land by growing abundant food upon it. In spite of the fact that increased farm efficiency has tripled yields, while reducing the acreage needed for farming, the authors tell the young reader to say goodbye to wild lands.
The book falsely accuses mankind of destroying the oceans and all that lives therein, while producing more and more floods resulting from–what else?–global warming. It lays blame on mankind for expanding deserts (even though, aided by the increase in atmospheric CO2, deserts such as the Sahara are actually giving way to foliage and grasslands) and falsely charges global trade as riding on the backs of child labor. Virtually every picture and page (74 of them) contains a blatant falsehood or distortion to be absorbed by its young readers. Here is a sample:
- Air pollution from cars will increase 25 percent in the next 10 years. (It is in fact significantly declining in spite of the fact that the number of cars is increasing.)
- Twelve percent of all species are endangered. (Scientific study has yet to produce any accurate numbers, but a safe guess is well below 1 percent.)
- More than 20,000 square miles of ice disappear each year. (That invented number of regional ice depletion fails to account for growing ice fields in other global regions.)
- Pesticides are no way to treat insect infestations, no matter how bad.
- Nuclear energy provides no safe hope for humanity.
- We must return to fishing for our dinner rather than industrial fishing, which feeds those who do not fish.
- We cannot afford to feed meat to the world’s population, so we must eliminate commercial animal herds.
- Each year 50,000 square miles of forest land leave the planet. (Forest land has actually increased for many decades in all developed countries.)
Bias Is Evident
On page after page, the authors lay the blame for floods, cyclones, hurricanes, heat waves, drying lakes, sea level changes, and more at the feet of mankind. And of course, the authors lecture, our future depends entirely on the continuing development of wind and solar power.
Two words can aptly be used to describe the anti-technology contents of this book: socialist propaganda. But it is certainly used effectively. The authors fully exploit the fact that an attractive book full of large, colorful pictures can induce educators to mislead America’s youth about the current state of our planet, and implore children to turn their backs on the technology that has enabled man to thrive.
Jay Lehr, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is science director for The Heartland Institute.