Now that the fear of global nuclear holocaust has receded, it is difficult to imagine any issues of greater significance for planetary survival than those debated in this book. It is also difficult to imagine two more different views of that prospect than those expressed by our two authors, Julian Simon and Norman Myers.
The first tells a story of environmental plenty if not bliss, of progressive improvement in the human condition. The reassurance voiced by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his inaugural address, "that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself," aptly captures Simon's message. Human ingenuity and institutional adaptation in the long run are the most powerful forces of all, he insists, prompting opportunity and the search for solutions. The second tells a story of ecological degradation that is potentially catastrophic in its effects. It is a few seconds before midnight, and the erosion if not collapse of planetary life-support systems, species extinction, and the material as well as spiritual impoverishment of humankind are but ticks of the clock away. "We are now playing God," Myers concludes, and will pay the price unless we cease and desist....
Humankind does not know whether Simon is right, or Myers. We must come to know. Our collective existence could hang in the balance.
-from the foreword by John Gerard Ruggie, Dean, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University