Paul Conkin: New book gauges The State of the Earth





The litany of woe has become familiar and seemingly overwhelming. The earth is running out of fossil fuel and facing chaotic weather due to global warming. Water will soon be scarce, and world population continues to explode, taxing diminishing resources.

All true to some extent. But despite the temptation for doom and gloom, all is not lost, says Paul Conkin, Distinguished Professor of History, Emeritus, at Vanderbilt University and author of the new book The State of the Earth: Environmental Challenges on the Road to 2100, published by The University Press of Kentucky.

“Humans will endure,” Conkin said. “It’s a problem of, at what cost?”

The State of the Earth attempts a broad perspective on environmental issues, taking a long view of how humanity came to this crossroads and how Americans can craft policies that may preserve a healthy earth.

“I know of no other book that tries to tease out the implications of the modern industrial age into the 21st century for a non-specialist audience,” said Mark Cioc, author of The Rhine: An Eco-Biography, 1815-2000, about The State of the Earth. “It will stand the test of time.”

Conkin, an historian by trade, has written histories of Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt’s Peabody College, plus over fifteen other books on recent American history, American religion and philosophy, economic and political theory, and Darwinism and the history of science.

“My background is as an historian, and I draw on that, but I’m not trying to write an environmental history about how we arrived where we are today,” Conkin said. “I have attempted to do what historians rarely do – look way ahead rather than backwards. I believe I understand the various sciences well enough to do a fair and honest job of presenting many very complex issues to a lay audience.”...



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