Book Review of "Children's Atlas of the Environment" by Rand-McNally

By John Rohe
Published in The Social Contract
Volume 2, Number 2 (Winter 1991-1992)
Issue theme: "Getting past the immigration taboo - an international perspective"

New occasions teach new duties; time makes ancient good uncouth;

They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth.

- James Russell Lowell, 1819-1891

Why does conventional wisdom assail the morality of population control? Why are proponents of immigration reform conveniently ignored? Why do our courts set aside environmental protection and zoning laws in favor of private economic interests? Why do business interests commonly trump ecological concerns in our legislatures? Perhaps these questions can, in part, be analyzed by considering the factual backdrop against which our conventional ethics and laws were evolved.

Recorded history documents man's emergence as the single species that would control the planet. The mentality for conquest was developed during an era of vast resources and unlimited frontiers. The ethics of population control and immigration reform cannot be appreciated until notions of carrying capacity replace the ingrained traditions that foster economic exploitation of the ecology. The challenge involves laying the groundwork for a new ethics of ecological responsibility. When and where do we begin?

The Rand McNally Children's Atlas of the Environment is a good start for school age children. The 79 pages of maps, illustrations, photographs, and text begin with an explanation of the Earth as a balanced system which supports living things. It explains the harmonious relationship of the sun, water, air, flora, fauna, land, and population. The Atlas next addresses how the balance has been upset by loss of soil, air pollution, fouled water, destroyed plant life, threatened animal life, and overcrowded human life. Major environmental problems are categorized by continental region the acid rain in Europe, soil erosion in southern Asia, expanding deserts in Africa, hazardous waste and energy use in North America, and the desecration of rain forests in South America. The Atlas anticipates the child's question How can we help?

The Children's Atlas of the Environment contrasts the established harmonious balance in nature with a burgeoning population. Although the ethics of population control and immigration reform is an issue beyond the scope of this work, the framework upon which future generations may evaluate these issues is capably set forth. The concise visual and textual presentation intended for children (and certainly a worthwhile read for adults) is free of cumbersome statistics. Hopefully, the next generation will remember environmental literature of this nature when, for example, evaluating what amounts to an unconstitutional taking by a zoning authority.

With parental assistance, this writer's eight-year-old son is able to comprehend the text. The book seems ideally suited for children in late grade school through early high school. It retails for $14.95.

About the author

John F. Rohe is a Petoskey, Michigan attorney who is very active in environment preservation.

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(Article copyrights extend to the first date the article was published in The Social Contract)