Prof. Saleem H. Ali, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, discussed his new book, Treasures of the Earth: Need, Greed and A Sustainable Future, at the Pardee House Seminar on 23 October, 2009. The talk was moderated by Professor Adil Najam, Director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future.
Prof. Saleem Ali started by giving an overview of his book which links human wants and needs by providing a natural history of consumption and materialism with scientific detail and humanistic nuance and has received cover endorsements from Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus and IPCC Chair R. K. Pachauri. His book focuses on minerals as the key resource for the world and he points out the importance of natural sciences in understanding the environment. He argued that simply disavowing consumption of materials is not likely to help in planning for a resource-scarce future, given global inequality, development imperatives, and our goals for a democratic global society. Furthermore, he argued that we need to consider the salience of mineral resources and their cycling through consumer activities more seriously through the paradigms of industrial and restoration ecology.
Prof. Ali also introduced the concept of “the treasure impulse.” He argued that rather than suppress the creativity and desire to discover that is often embedded in the exploration and production of material goods, a new environmental paradigm needs to be developed: one that accepts our need to consume ‘treasure’ for cultural and developmental reasons. He also questioned the views some environmentalists take as “a totalitarian control” over consumption. In evaluating the impact of treasure consumption on resource-rich countries, he argued that there is a way to consume responsibly and alleviate global poverty.
Prof. Ali’s presentation was followed by a lively discussion and audience questions. Some of the issues discussed included the role of trade and politics in resource management and the management of resource conflict. In conclusion, the author reiterated the need to strive for a different world view of more self-sufficiency but not belittling the need for consumption, especially for developing nations.
Copies of Treasures of the Earth: Need, Greed, and a Sustainable Future are available for sale through booksellers nationwide and from the publisher, Yale University Press. The author is also launching an
interactive web site for the book <http://www.treasurebook.info> .
A video recording of the seminar will soon be posted at the Pardee Center Multimedia page.