Betting the Earth.

Author:Spaulding, Holly Wren
Position:Book review

John Charles Kunich (author); BETTING THE EARTH; Parkhurst Brothers (Nature) $19.95 ISBN: 9781935166177

Byline: Holly Wren Spaulding

According to environmental law professor John Charles Kunich, uncertainty and "the unknown" are at the heart of the human tendency toward inaction in the face of looming environmental crises. In Betting the Earth, he examines the way political and cultural inertia informs responses to threats of mass extinctions and global climate change.

The quest for incontrovertible answers to persistent questions about "when" and exactly "how" we'll be affected by these twin challenges is costing humans and the earth more time than can be reasonably gambled, given what is already known. And yet there is much that scientists and scholars do not yet know -- in part because some things simply cannot be known -- but also because modeling, testing, and analysis of data results in probabilities more often than certitudes. Meanwhile, doubters and others who balk at proposals to address environmental crises point to gaps in knowledge as an excuse to dismiss serious action. Kunich argues that this is a risky bet when what is needed is a winning bet.

Recognizing the context and the need for strategic decision making, Kunich considers how luminaries in the fields of logic, mathematics, philosophy, and theoretical physics can contribute. He surveys the ideas of Blaise Pascal, Kurt GA[paragraph]del, and Werner Heisenberg, and finds that theories of uncertainty, game theory, and risk analysis can help world leaders and decision makers come to terms with the...

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