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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

May 26, 1991|Alex Raksin

IT'S A MATTER OF SURVIVAL by Anita Gordon and David Suzuki (Harvard: $19.95; 266 pp.). It's hard enough these days to get a stop sign posted on our neighborhood block, so we are naturally inclined to shy away from books like this one, which cautions that unless we halt environmental destruction and population growth within 10 years, "civilization as we know it will cease to exist."

The challenge, then, for authors such as TV producer Anita Gordon and zoologist David Suzuki is to boil this daunting task down to practical projects for us folks and economically viable strategies for our institutions. Through witty prose, the authors succeed famously at the former: You might inform the recycling Scrooge in your house that every three months, Americans trash enough aluminum to rebuild the entire U.S. commercial airline fleet; and that recovering just one Sunday's print run of The Times would save 75,000 trees.

Like the producers of those trendy TV specials, though, the authors are less successful at outlining political strategies. They underscore the need for poor countries to stop squandering natural resources, but they don't suggest laws or economic incentives to ensure this; they deride our need for the latest "fashions, gadgets and looks" but they don't explain how capitalism can thrive without these carrots.

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