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managerial class and fleece the masses, all the while expecting the downtrodden and the environment to absorb the costs of production. \(Cox, as we will see, relAs pure polemic, the book sings, and Cox’s nose for irony is sharp. “An industry dedicated to health,” he writes, “ought not be feeding the endless economic growth that threatens the biological systems on which human health depends.” His delivery of the choice statistic is equally well honed. The human carnivore can’t be told too many times that it takes 68 times more water to make a pound of beef than it does to make a pound of wheat flour. Like much of what Cox has to say, the figure makes one pause. Even casual readers are likely to recognize Cox’s statistics-packed tirade against agribusiness and the pharmaceutical machine, but Cox’s discussion of what might be called second-tier environmental problems might alarm even experts in disaster, providing worthy reminders that the ecological plagues currently making headlines are just the The massive input of natural gas required to manufacture nitrogen fertilizer, the impact of “global dimming pollutants” on rain patterns in Southeast Asia, and the chemical terrors of Teflon are only a few of the lesser-known hazards that Cox adds to the growing list of depression-inducing factoids. “I will warn you now,” Cox writes, “that this book does not include a hopeful final chapter plotting a sure, safe route out of this mess.” Fair warning. It perhaps comes as no surprise that on the afternoon I finished reading Sick Planet, I found myself atop a barstool staring into a glass of beer. Alongside sat a friend who knows environmental matters well. Maybe it was the beer talking, but I uncharacteristically declared that maybe there is no hope, the avalanche has started and there’s no holding it back, we’ve driven our Hummer across the Rubicon. I wandered over to this tempting dark side because Cox’s “solution” struck me as so utterly desperate, so detached from social and political reality. I mean, why not just save your breath and accept that the earth is dying a painful and protracted death? OK, so it was the beer talking. The fact remains that Cox concludes his litany of environmental despair with an inherently unachievable proposition, if not a complete cop-out: a Marxist plea for what he and other radicals are calling “ecosocialism.” Individual efforts do not matter, Cox argues, if they don’t challenge profit motivethe insidious disease at the heart of our environmental predicament. Our supposedly virtuous choices to buy local or drive a hybrid are, in Cox’s curmudgeonly estimation, undermined by the fact that ” [An] ould-be green capitalism is nothing but a publicity stunt, a label for the purpose of selling a commodity.” It makes no sense to “streamline a global economic system that refuses to be fixed” because, in Cox’s final assessment, “we cannot have both capitalism and a livable planet:’ The answer, then, is to eliminate the profit motive, redefine our “wants:’ and rebuild the world economy on the principles of Marxian socialism. With apologies to any Observer-reading Marxists out there: Good luck! Robert Paarlberg, a political scientist at Wellesley College, offers a more complex and malleable analysis of global ization in Starved for Science. Rather than dismiss globalization’s many excesses with an abrupt Marxist swat, he molds them into something more applicable to our environmental and humanitarian dilemmas. Paarlberg’s thesis is that genetically modified cropsa form of biotechnology routinely castigated by anti-globalization critics, among othersdeserve a place in Africa’s stagnant agricultural system. Paarlberg is no apologist for Monsanto Co., the world’s premier owner and supplier of GM technology \(and a notoriously illpragmatic believer in separating babies from bathwater. The fact that current applications of GM technology primarily benefit a handful of corporations does not deter Paarlberg from envisioning a scenario in which nonprofits and private African corporations might employ GM technology to serve the increasingly dire needs of African farmers. Paarlberg has no intention of challenging capitalism. He works instead from the premise that American agriculture’s current emphasis on genetically modified soybeans and corn does not preclude using the technology to massproduce drought-resistant sweet potatoes or insect-resistant cassavacrops that have already been developed, but lack public support in the locales that would most benefit from their implementation. “Factory farming and corporate concentration in agriculture are appropriate targets for nongovernmental organizations’ action back home in Europe and North America,” Paarlberg writes, “but the danger in Africa’s impoverished countryside is that private companies with modern technologies will invest too little rather than too much:’ It’s a critical distinction, and one that the anti-globalization brigade has an obligation to address. Paarlberg’s contention that opposi Maybe there is no hope, the avalanche has started and there’s no holding it back, we’ve driven our Hummer across the Rubicon. JUNE 27, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27