Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Crowded Greenhouse

The Crowded Greenhouse: Population, Climate Change, and Creating a Sustainable World

Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 258
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Crowded Greenhouse
    Book Description:

    This book focuses on two critical global issues-rapid population growth and a human-induced climate change. John Firor and Judith Jacobsen summarize the current status of these two issues, show how they are related to one another, and prescribe steps that governments, economies, societies, and individuals can adopt to stabilize both population and climate.Firor and Jacobsen argue that two revolutions are necessary to achieve a stable population and freedom from human-induced climate change: a social revolution that improves equity, particularly the status of women, and a technical revolution that yields vastly greater efficiency in energy and materials use than we have today. They offer a vision that incorporates these changes, and they urge professionals and activists to work to achieve them, even in the face of great odds.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13344-8
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  5. 1 One Vision of the Year 2050
    (pp. 1-22)

    The year is 2050, and the world is a very different place than it was fifty years ago.

    A couple of decades into the new century, both citizens and leaders recognized that the natural world of unmanaged forests, other ecosystems, and diverse species is not one amenity among others, to be respected only when budget surpluses allow, but is the very playing field on which our economies and livelihoods unfold. It became clear that our economic success, and in some cases our survival, depend on the health of the natural world.

    No longer could our economies set at zero the...

  6. 2 The New World of Population Policy
    (pp. 23-51)

    In the spring of my sophomore year in high school (in early 1969), two events conspired to stir in me a strong commitment to population issues. First, seven or eight girls—‘‘good’’ girls, including three from the varsity cheerleading squad—suddenly disappeared from school. I was startled. They must have had plans for college and careers, and their dropping out of school made no sense. Then I heard the whispers: They were pregnant. All of them, pregnant at fifteen or sixteen and out of school because of it.

    Then, during spring break that year, I went with my best friend,...

  7. 3 Putting Cairo to Work
    (pp. 52-79)

    I once had an argument with a fellow population activist. In the midst of a discussion, over dinner in a restaurant, he professed not to know the precise agenda of action for encouraging fertility decline, and hence population stabilization. I felt sure he was being disingenuous in order to annoy me—we had a history—so I got irritated. It turned out, to my embarrassment, that a number of people committed to the population issue know more about the nature of the problem than about its solutions. This chapter is for them. And for my colleague, unjustly the object of...

  8. 4 U.S. Population Activism in the New Century
    (pp. 80-101)

    In a book that is essentially about global population policy, the efforts of activists based in the United States nevertheless deserve attention. There are probably more self-described American population activists than those of any other nationality, with a movement more than three decades old and several large national organizations focused on population matters. We U.S. activists work to affect the fertility and growth rates of an important country: the United States has the third-largest population in the world and is the most rapidly growing industrialized country of any size. We lobby to affect an enormous resource, in the form of...

  9. 5 A Warming World
    (pp. 102-134)

    In 1988 I attended an international conference in Toronto arranged by the Canadian government, a conference designed to discuss the problem of human-induced climate change. During one plenary session, a participant stood up and introduced himself as the ambassador to the United Nations from the Republic of Maldives. Then he sat down. There was puzzlement among the delegates in the silence that followed, and one could sense wheels beginning to turn in many heads: ‘‘Where on Earth is Maldives? Oh yes, it’s that group of islands in the Indian Ocean. That large group of small, low islands. Low islands! Oh...

  10. 6 International Climate-Change Negotiations
    (pp. 135-164)

    In 1954 the United States tested a thermonuclear bomb by exploding it in the atmosphere over the western Pacific Ocean. Heavy fallout moved in an unexpected direction and invaded an area open to fishing. When it contaminated a Japanese fishing boat ironically namedFortunate Dragon, crew members of that boat and others sickened; some died. The fish on boats in the area were contaminated, and all fish brought to Japanese harbors were viewed with suspicion. That event, combined with the knowledge that any atmospheric test of a nuclear weapon spreads radioactive materials around the world (some were showing up in...

  11. 7 Creating a Stable Atmosphere
    (pp. 165-186)

    Any parent with a child of five or six years is familiar with the ‘‘Why?’’ period. Everything is subject to question: Why is the sky blue? Why does light scatter in that color? Why are air molecules just that size? Why . . . ?

    Elucidating what the world needs to do to stabilize the composition of the atmosphere and avoid the worst effects of climate heating follows a similar train, but the questions are ‘‘How?’’ Those questions and their answers go like this: How do we avoid the worst effects of climate heating? By reducing emissions of greenhouse gases...

  12. 8 Population and Climate Change Together
    (pp. 187-202)

    As we have spoken to family, friends, and colleagues about this book, one question has dominated (other than ‘‘How is it to write a book with your spouse?’’). That question is, ‘‘Howdopopulation and climate change interact?’’

    One of the mechanical ways in which population and climate change interact is, obviously, human consumption of fossil fuels. Without reducing dramatically the amount of fossil fuel that each person uses, continued population growth accelerates climate change, as each new person adds more heat-trapping substances to the atmosphere. By the same token, every time per-capita emissions rise, the negative impact of each...

  13. AFTERWORD: Dancing in the Crowded Greenhouse
    (pp. 203-214)

    We have a great friend who has worked long and hard on environmental and population issues, in both elective politics and the nonprofit world. She told us a story some years ago that affected us deeply.

    She participated in a retreat of several days for highlevel environmental activists and policymakers, where thoughtful people led and joined in probing discussions. At one point, she was asked if she had hope. Now, this friend has probably the most austere view of the future of the world of any of our environmental friends. She has seen too much of the world’s deterioration, the...

  14. Bibliographic Essay
    (pp. 215-230)
  15. Index
    (pp. 231-237)