Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book Review – A Contract with the Earth by Newt Gingrich and Terry L. Maple

This is a rather odd book to review. On the one hand former Speaker Newt Gingrich teams up with the CEO of the Palm Beach Zoo to argue for a “Contract with the Earth” in which all of us, without partisanship, become stewards of the environment. Published in 2007, they note that “as a nation” we must remove our addiction to oil: “By weaning industrial societies from their dependence on fossil fuels, the world would be a far better place.” They implore both parties to take the environment seriously, pleading that “surely our energy problems rise to the level of a presidential crusade.”
Later they quote a coalition of corporate CEOs that together represent an Energy Security Leadership Council:

“America’s oil dependence threatens the prosperity and safety of the nation. Continued policy paralysis is unacceptable precisely because we can take action to improve our energy security. Many challenges lie ahead, but we have no doubt that efforts of the American people will meet with success.”

That was during the Bush administration.

Which gets us to the other hand. While the book argues forcefully for bipartisan (or more accurately, non-partisan) action to deal with climate change, pollution, protection of endangered species, biodiversity, and other environmental values, it is also rife with political innuendo and denialism. Given Gingrich’s recent statements that contradict the profoundly persuasive arguments in this book, it’s unclear whether the self-contradictions are a result of the differing views of the two authors or of the lead author’s political pandering induced by a run for the White House.

Ignoring that aspect for the moment, the book does offer some compelling ideas for how to rid ourselves of our oil addiction and invest in the development of renewable energy. They quote Espy and Winston’s book Green to Gold, in that “smart companies seize competitive advantage through strategic management of environmental challenges.” In other words, smart innovative companies can make a buck and save the planet too! Gingrich and Maple advocate an entrepreneurial approach to dealing with climate change, quoting the Republicans for Environmental Protection:

“America is ready to meet the challenges posed by global warming. America has the best scientists. America’s businesses lead the world in developing and marketing innovative technologies that transform lives. All that remains is leadership that will channel the unrivaled power and creativity of markets toward developing the solutions we need soon to protect our atmosphere, strengthen American economy, and bring clean prosperity to the world’s developing nations.”

As I read those final words it struck me – perhaps Newt Gingrich should go back and read his own book.

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