The Middle Path

Avoiding Environmental Catastrophe

Eric Lambin

The Middle Path

Eric Lambin

Translated by M. B. DeBevoise
208 pages | 7 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2007
Cloth $25.00 ISBN: 9780226468532 Published October 2007
The debate about global warming is over. There is no longer any question that human activity is causing the Earth’s climate to heat up at an increasingly rapid rate, with consequences that we are now only beginning to understand. Meanwhile, human population growth is placing unsustainable demands on everything from animal habitats to water supplies. Faced with radically different assessments of the long-term effects of global warming—from oil companies, scientists, business lobbies, and environmental groups—concerned citizens find it difficult to tell how dire the prognosis really is. Is life on Earth doomed, or is there still time to mitigate—even to reverse—the damage that has already been done?

In The Middle Path, noted geographer Eric Lambin provides a concise, readable summary of the present state of the environment and considers what must be done if environmental catastrophe is to be avoided. Finding merit in the arguments of both optimists and pessimists, Lambin argues that it is not too late to exploit the inherent tendency toward equilibrium of large-scale systems such as the earth’s environment. By relying upon a combination of remedies as global as international cap-and-trade emission treaties and as local as municipal programs promoting the use of bicycles rather than cars, it may yet be possible to rescue humanity from a potentially fatal crisis of its own making.

Based on rigorous scientific analysis, and strikingly free of ideological prejudice, The Middle Path presents a fresh view of our troubled future, brilliantly balancing tough-minded realism with humanitarian ideals of cooperation and ingenuity.

1          The Acceleration of Planetary Change
2          Mankind and Its Environment
3          The Mechanisms of Environmental Degradation
4          The Causes of Environmental Change
5          Ecological Degradation or Restoration
6          The Nature of Environmental Change
7          Solutions

Review Quotes
J. R. McNeill, author of Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World
“The Belgian polymath Eric Lambin has penned a compact and readable conspectus of the environmental issues of our time. Historically informed, scientifically sound, and optimistic in tone, this book not only analyzes the central questions but also provides plausible answers, on both policy and personal levels, in a field where there are no easy answers.”
Matthew Turner
The Middle Path does an excellent job of explaining complex issues in clear, jargon-free prose for nonspecialists, laying out the methods and uncertainties of current global environmental research. Lambin doesn’t underestimate our environmental predicament, but at the same time, he acknowledges that humans have a claim as managers and users of environmental resources. The concerned citizen will come away not only with a real understanding of the problems facing our world but also of the very real solutions available to us.”<Matthew Turner, University of Wisconsin>
Alan H. Strahler
The Middle Path is an engaging look at the current state of our knowledge of the environmental issues facing humanity. Lambin reminds us that the earth as an ecological system is constantly changing—but while it is capable of being brought back into balance, the present trajectory of human economic and social development is unsustainable. Our challenge, he argues, is to move toward a more dynamic vision of human interaction with the environment, forging a new order of shared values that see the individual as part of—rather than in control of—the natural world. His observations about human history, human activity, and the environment are original and provocative. This book is a must-read for anyone seriously concerned about the ultimate fate of life on planet Earth.”<Alan H. Strahler, Boston University>
Library Journal
"Lambin looks at environmental degradation from the perspectives of both the optimist and the pessimist and steers a balanced path between each. He explores the intricate relationship between human beings and their environment on a global scale and at the community level and discusses the roles of technology, institutions, environmental markets, and cultural change in solving potentially fatal environmental problems. Whether writing about the collapse of a civilization or sustainable development, Lambin employs references to history, scientific studies, theories, and data that in a less-skilled hand might prove too overwhelming to the reader. This is geography at its best. Highly recommended for university libraries and for public and specialized libraries seeking a substantive environmental."
"This thought-provoking, succinct book should serve to seed the policy debate about personal, community-wide, national, and global responses to climate change, resource exhaustion, and environmental catastrophes."
Joshua E. Cinner | Quarterly Review of Biology
"The author uses refreshingly nontechnical prose to summarize key aspects of the debate about confronting the crisis of global environmental change. The volume reviews theories of human-environment interactions ranging from classic Malthusian arguments to contemporary ideas about resilience in linked social-ecological systems. . . . This clearly written book is targeted at nonspecialists and will be well received by those readers. It would also be appropriate for undergraduate environmental studies courses and even has something to offer those of us actively working in the human dimensions of environmental change."
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