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Mark Plummer, Author of Noah’s Choice

Original Article

Mark L. Plummer, the distinguished economist and former Discovery Institute fellow who co-authored (with Charles C. Mann) Noah’s Choice (Knopf, 1995), has died of cancer in Federal Way, near Seattle. He and Mann earlier co-authored The Aspirin Wars, a riveting and amusing chronicle of the famous analgesic. But it was Noah’s Choice that famously explained the perversities of environmental regulations that sometimes use law and the supposed requirements of science–in this case, through the Endangered Species Act–to provoke the very kinds of environmental damage the laws aimed to prevent.

Among other memorable accounts in Noah’s Choice is the story of songbird species in the Hill Country near Austin, Texas, where the likelihood of endangered species designation led to property owners secretly getting rid of the birds in advance. Such misunderstandings and paradoxes inspired some of the more centrist environmentalists to found organizations to save endangered species through cooperation with property owners instead of through lawsuits and bureaucratic harassment.

Some environmentalists were annoyed by Noah’s Choice, of course. But former EPA Administrator William D. Ruckelshaus described the book as “a clear, entertaining and above all honest look at a subject that is too often mired in dishonest posturing.”

Dr. Plummer was employed in recent years at the Conservation Biology Division of the National Marine Fisheries Service of NOAA, headquartered in Seattle.

Mark and his wife, Cassie Phillips, once worked together in the Washington, DC office of U.S. Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA) and later at the Weyerhaueser Company in Federal Way. They have two grown children, Robert and Elizabeth.

Dr. Plummer’s friends and former Discovery Institute colleagues send their sympathies to his family, and, among oner things, will always recall with respect and appreciation his contributions to sane law and sound science.