This book deals with the environmental implications of an economy based on the exploitation of non-renewable mineral resources and fossil fuels. It purports to establish that a viable world economic order requires drastic changes in life styles, strict population control and a switch to non-renewable resources. The basis for this approach lies in the belief that there is no way of coping with the depletion of non-renewable resources and the pollution loads generated by modem industry.
The author elaborates the above arguments but by and large the various propositions are not hacked by any systematic analysis of data. Thus the author reports some figures on known reserves of various minerals and the number of years for which they will last. He gives some figures for global pollution load and population growth in India. But there is no attempt to connect these different bits of data to show how they are interlinked.
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For instance, the author clearly believes that population growth is a major factor underlying the rate of depletion of natural resources. But is this in fact the case? Or is it the rapid rise in living standards in the developed world? A more coherent attempt to examine the relevant data, which are now quite readily available, would have been more useful.
The slipshod method of analysis probably accounts for the ill-considered policy recommendation. Thus on population control the author believes in ‘some compulsion’ because he says, without offering any evidence, that persuasion cannot work in ‘countries such as India’. An indication of the silliness of the book is provided by the author’s argument that ‘hirise (sic) buildings … encourage large families’ because this style of buildings ‘discourages ingress and egress from the apartment, and in the absence of some worthwhile indoor occupation, there is a tendency to produce children’. The author also blandly asserts that the switch over to renewable resources must be completed by 1985 without analysing whether such a switchover is feasible.
The style in which the book is written is rambling and often incoherent. The author jumps from idea to idea and often there are passages that hang in mid-air with no clear connection with what precedes or succeeds them. There is a bare semblance of organization in the chapter headings but within chapters the sketchy material that the author has compiled is thrown together almost haphazardly. One wonders what the editors of the book made of it. No attempt has been made to survey the available material nor is there evidence of any substantial effort at original work. Perhaps the defects emanate from the frank admission of the author that: ‘Logic has never been my strong point, and perhaps of so many others, but life is not all logic, though there may be some logic guiding it in some subtle way.’
The book is of no value whatever. It does not contain much by way of useful data, its analysis is naive and its style is incoherent. It is shocking that a reputed publishing house has put out something as useless as this under such a grand title.
Nitin Desai is Adviser (PAD), Planning Commission, New Delhi.