Book Review: Endangered Economies

In his book, Prof Geoffrey Heal grapples with the question on every policymaker’s mind: Is it possible to achieve sustainable development without compromising economic growth?

Endangered Economies

Title: Endangered Economies: How the Neglect of Nature Threatens Our Prosperity

Author: Geoffrey Heal

Publishing Date: 20 December 2016

Publisher: Columbia University Press

Goodreads rating: 3 Stars

In his book, Prof Geoffrey Heal grapples with the question on every policymaker’s mind: Is it possible to achieve sustainable development without compromising economic growth? He draws anecdotes from his years in environmental economics both as an academic and advisor in various high-level committees to show efforts that are being made to address this question. He entwines economics, politics and science around the environment and climate change while still presenting the core issues in a digestible manner and non-alarmist manner.

I was glad that he was able to highlight some of the practices and policy measures that have been put in place may be economically sound but environmentally harmful. For instance, when  Heal was working as a member of Pew Oceans Commission, he came across the problems associated with common property frameworks such as bycatch and bottom trawling. Bycatch involves throwing away fish that was caught but not suitable for the market. Living in a world facing food scarcity and insecurity, it is unimaginable; to vegans and vegetarians, this would be similar to throwing away ugly produce.  While I found this section rather long-winded, I was glad that I was able to relate it some of the practices in my own country.

Prof. Heal is able to trace the history of various related economic and scientific aspects but without being too academic or dry which I think would make this book be appreciated by both new and seasoned in environmental economics. For me, the major downside of this book was that he dwelt more on the USA examples to illustrate his arguments. Nonetheless, as I continued reading the book I developed a greater appreciation for this case study since it is a  country that is heavily dependent on fossil fuels for economic growth but struggles with numerous political economy issues. numerous policy measures especially the Republican and  Democratic parties’ debates. At times, I found this a tad bit too much but readers will find this interesting especially after President Trump pulled the USA out of the Paris Climate Deal in June 2017. I also appreciated that he discussed emerging countries like China that clearly prioritised industrial revolution to the detriment of the environment and are now mending their ways.

Overall, this book would be a good fit for anyone who is constantly wondering why everyone is clamouring for climate change mitigation and adaptation measures and would like a quick and digestible introduction to environmental economics.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by Columbia University Press (CUP) via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Photo Credit: Columbia University Press


About Lillian

I am a proud student of the human experience which provides me with the perfect excuse for being a bibliophile (read: book hoarder) and the unofficial patron of Nairobi Inama bookshops. But in my past life, I was a recorder player. You can also find me on Medium (@lillianyamongo) where I discuss sustainable finance.
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