“Anglo-American economists (after about 1880) took nature out of economics. The growth fetish, while on balance quite useful in a world of empty land, shoals of undisturbed fish, vast forests, and a robust ozone shield, helped create a more crowded and unstressed one… Economic thought did not adjust to the changed conditions it helped to create; thereby, it continued to legitimate, and indeed indirectly to cause, massive and rapid ecological change. The overarching priority of economic growth was easily the most important idea of the twentieth century.” (McNeil 2000: 336)
Professor John R. McNeill is an environmental historian at Georgetown University. This discerning quote is from his important ans the best known book Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-century World (2000) in which he documents and analyzes the massive impact on ecosystems resulting from urbanization, population growth, oil spills, wars and nuclear power accidents. The book closes with a capsule history of the environmental movement, gauging its successes and failures.