By Eric Freedman
The more things don’t change…
I’ve been perusing the shelves of the Knight Center’s conference room library, getting rid of—recycling—outdated books to make room for new ones. These, published from the early 1980s through the mid-1990s, are just a sampling of our castaways:
- “Footprints on the Planet: A Search for an Environmental Ethic” by Robert Cahn
- “Public Policy for Chemicals: National & International Issues” by Sam Gusman, Konrad von Moltke, Francis Irwin & Cynthia Whitehead
- “Fear at Work: Job Blackmail, Labor & the Environment” by Richard Kazis and Richard Grossman
- “Radiation & Human Health” by John Gofman
- “Renewable Energy: The Power to Choose” by Daniel Deudney & Christopher Flavin
- “Environmental Regulation and Economic Efficiency” by the Congressional Budget Office
- “Crossroads: Environmental Priorities for the Future” by Peter Borelli
- “International Environmental Policy: Emergence & Dimensions” by Lynton Caldwell
- “Global Warning: The Economic Stakes” by William Cline
- “How Many Americans? Population, Immigration & the Environment by Leon Bouvier & Lindsey Grant
Although their content may be stale—often by decades—what struck me was how the same issues remain prominently in today’s headlines: Alternative energy. Population. Climate change. Jobs versus the environment. Environmental activism. Eco-lawsuits. Eco-ethics. Nuclear power. Were experts actually writing about global warming 20 years ago? Well, Cline’s book appeared in 1992, and Harold Bernard Jr.’s “Global Warming Unchecked: Signs to Watch For” came out in 1993.
These same titles and many entries in their tables of contents could easily fit into the latest books hot off the presses or downloaded onto my iPad.
In light of the ongoing political and legislative debates positing a direct conflict between jobs and environmental protection, look at “Fear at Work: Job Blackmail, Labor & the Environment,” published in 1982. Its authors described their topic as “one particularly insidious form of job blackmail: environmental job blackmail,” and wrote that “many business and government leaders…have played on fears of unemployment to alienate members of organized labor from their counterparts in the environmental movement.” Couldn’t a new book on the same theme include such chapters as “’Hell, that’s market performance’: Unemployment and pollution” or the “Mythology of growth” or “Innovation and environmental regulation?”
Consider some of the still-timely chapter names in “International Environmental Policy: Emergence & Dimensions.” Among them: “Population, resources, energy and development,” “International commons: Atmosphere, outer space, oceans, Antarctica” or “Enhancing the quality of Life: Natural and cultural environments.” How difficult would it be to time-travel those chapter titles from 1990 to 2013?
Eric Freedman is director of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State University.