Learning to Think Environmentally

While There Is Still Time

By Lester W. Milbrath

Subjects: Education
Paperback : 9780791429549, 156 pages, January 1996
Hardcover : 9780791429532, 156 pages, January 1996

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Table of contents

List of Figures




1. Introduction

2. Beliefs Empower and Deceive Us

3. The Hidden Danger in Doubling Times

4. Learning to Think Systemically

5. Matter and Energy Cannot Be Destroyed

6. Driving a Car Has Multiple Consequences

7. The Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming

8. Scattering Matter and Energy

9. Dynamic Natural Systems Stabilized by Diversity

10. Limits to the Earth's Capacity to Support People

11. The Tragedy of the Commons

12. The Earth: Both Source and Sink

13. Distinguishing Development from Growth

14. Distinguishing Sustainability from Sustainable Development

15. Choosing Wise Policies

16. Theories of Social Change

17. Next Steps

Recommended Further Reading

Index of Key Concepts


The survival of planet Earth's nourishing life systems ultimately depends on how we humans think about them. Unfortunately, our culture's assumptions about the way the world works ignore recent scientific understanding of life systems. This book explains the interdependency and delicate balance of biological, geological, and chemical systems as environmental scientists now understand them. It communicates a new way of thinking.

Written in everyday language as a conversation between two neighbors, Learning to Think Environmentally is illustrated with cartoons by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Tom Toles. It demonstrates that learning the basic principles of environmental thinking is essential to our social, physical, economic, and spiritual well-being. This new way of thinking is urgently needed in our public discourse if we are to take a sustainable pathway to the future.

Lester W. Milbrath is the Director of the Research Program in Environment and Society and Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Sociology at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He is the author of many books, including Envisioning a Sustainable Society: Learning Our Way Out and Environmentalists: Vanguard for a New Society, both published by SUNY Press.


"Milbrath's book is deceptively modest. It confronts inescapable facts of limits and our place as animals within the global biosphere. For all who care about what we are leaving for our children and grandchildren, this is an important contribution. " -- David T. Suzuki, from the Foreword