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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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Before I comment on Part I (The Litany), I can address some prefatory remarks by Lomborg. He embarked on this project after reading some comments by Julian Simon in Wired magazine in 1997. Simon’s use of statistics provoked an impassioned response by Lomborg?a quite ardent environmentalist and professor of statistics at the time?and he decided to meet Simon’s challenge. After reviewing Simon’s sources and statistics, he decided that Simon had it essentially right.

I’m a big fan of Julian Simon so reading this passage left me excited to read more. Lomborg could take up Simon’s gauntlet for decades to come and that would be a great thing. His book, The Ultimate Resource, is vastly different from any other environmental writing in that it says that, no matter how depleted so-called natural resources might become, there will always be unlimited quantities of the ultimate resource, man’s mind. Wow! What a concept! Of course, he disputes the natural resource depletion in other works, but this book indicated a much-deeper understanding of the issue than anything else I’d ever seen. From a cursory glance over his table of contents, I don’t think that Lomborg has yet achieved Simonian enlightenment but he’s still pretty young.

If I had to pigeonhole this book, I’d evaluate it starting out as an update to The State of Humanity. That’s not a criticism, as I’m sure a lot more data and analysis has transpired since the earlier work.