Summary of The Bet

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The Bet book summary


8 Overall

7 Importance

8 Innovation

8 Style


In this lively discussion, professor Paul Sabin reviews the last half-century of America’s environmental debate and the partisan politics surrounding it. His lens is a famous bet between biologist Paul Ehrlich and economist Julian Simon, both major figures in the environmental discussion. Ehrlich, who helped shape its early phase, is especially prominent, but each man came to represent a different political position in the debate. Sabin covers the ground dramatically, demonstrating the importance of context and rhetoric in any major public debate. If the book has a weakness, it’s that Sabin’s focus can seem, like the bet itself, to devolve to a great-man model of history. getAbstract recommends this unusual exploration to those interested in environmentalism, politics, free market ideology, US history and, of course, the future of the planet.

In this summary, you will learn

  • What the famous bet between biologist Paul Ehrlich and economist Julian Simon signified,
  • How this bet sums up the history of the US environmental debate, and
  • What lessons arose from the two men’s wager and long-running discussion.

About the Author

Paul Sabin, associate professor of history at Yale University, is founding director of the Environmental Leadership Program. He also wrote Crude Politics: The California Oil Market, 1900-1940.



The Crisis and the Conflict
In the 1960s, overpopulation instilled fear in people’s hearts. Stanford biology professor Paul Ehrlich shaped this concern with his 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb. He argued that millions were “going to starve to death.” Ehrlich was an articulate...

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