by Miriam Knight June 16, 2015
This book provides an impressively wide-ranging overview of the interrelationships and interdependencies among the environmental, economic, sociological, and political issues at play in the world today. They feed into the rather pressing question of whether humanity will be able to continue its existence on this planet with some semblance of order and dignity, or whether our social and environmental systems will break down into chaos.
As clearly evidenced from the exhaustive annotation and impressive detail, the book is aimed at academics, researchers, and decision-makers charged with navigating their companies, organizations or political institutions into the precarious and unknown territory ahead. While the authors are both academics, their roots are firmly planted in the real world and the warnings and conclusions they offer cannot be lightly dismissed. This book is at once sober and sobering. For example, according to the World Wildlife Fund, 35% of the world's natural wealth has been lost over the past 30 years alone.
Lay on top of that the growing inequalities between rich and poor; the dwindling supplies of mined and extracted resources like fresh water, oil, uranium, rare earths, lithium (for batteries), which have all reached peak status; climate change; environmental degradation due to agricultural and industrial pollution; and the growing pressures of developing countries understandably wanting to move into a Western-style consumer society. Coupled with the exponential rise in the world's population, it does not take a PhD to appreciate that our current global standard of living, particularly in the West, is not only unsustainable, but precarious in the extreme.
I would say that one of the greatest contributions of this book is to point out the insular and self-serving nature of academic, governmental and corporate research, and to issue a clarion call for interdisciplinary collaborations in order to have some chance of coming up with workable solutions to benefit the greater whole. Make no mistake, playtime is over as is business as usual. It's time for all of us to step into our responsibilities as grown-ups and to demand urgent action from those in power, as well as to take those individual actions and choices that we know in our hearts can make a difference, however small.
While this book is valuable in defining the problems and indicating where we need to change, at the end of the day it's up to each of us. The authors are optimistic that we will collectively step up to the plate. Let's hope that we do so before we’ve passed the final tipping point.