Summary of The Bet

Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earth’s Future

Yale UP, more...

Buy the book

The Bet book summary
A debate over environmentalism helped shape America’s political and economic history.


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.


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...
Get the key points from this book in less than 10 minutes. Learn more about our products or log in

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.

Comment on this summary

More on this topic

Customers who read this summary also read

More by category