Environmental Foresight Literature

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Climate Change Denial
Hadyn Washington and John Cook – see link

This book shows how we can break through denial, accept reality, and thus solve the climate crisis. The authors examine the nature of climate change denial, its history, how we let denial prosper, and how we can roll back denial. It summarises the climate science and explains uncertainty and probability. It also explains the social science behind denial. It contains a detailed examination of the principal climate change denial arguments, from attacks on the integrity of scientists, to impossible expectations of proof and certainty to the cherry picking of data. Climate change can be solved — but only when we cease to deny that it exists.

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The Great Disruption
Paul Gilding see link

Paul Gilding is well informed and well connected. He has advised Fortune 500 companies, established his own businesses, been the head of GreenPeace and is a member of the Cambridge University Sustainability Leadership Group. The “Great Disruption” when Mother Nature and Father Greed hit the wall at the same time he predicts will happen sometime between now and 2020. He predicts that only then will all humanity be united in its resolve to do “whatever it takes” to confine warming to one degree and transform the world economy from its current unsustainable growth model to one which respects nature’s limits.

It is an optimistic book. Gilding believes we will rise to the occasion based on what has happened in the face of previous crises such as the second world war. Poverty and inequality will be addressed. Technological innovation will assist us to dematerialise and reduce the energy intensity of our economy. We will evolve our understanding of what “a good life” is and productivity improvements will be used to free up our time and build social capital rather than putting more money in our pockets for shopping.

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We have met the Enemy: Self Control in the Age of Excess
Daniel Akst  link to ABC interview with author

Why is it that we find it so hard to stick to our resolve? Losing weight, giving up smoking or simply just not procrastinating is a challenge for us all as the number of self-help books and programs on these topics would attest. According to Daniel Akst it has something to do with our biological programing that our natural instinct is to go for the short term gain even if it against our long term best interests.

Collectively we exhibit the same behavior. Despite the fact that we all know that dealing with climate change is essential to our long term survival, we baulk at the idea of a carbon tax that may cut back our spending on ourselves by an infinitesimal fraction.

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The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Michael Pollan  link to Michael Pollan’s website

For anyone remotely concerned with the provenance of the food they eat, this book is fascinating from start to finish.

In The Ominvore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan investigates four streams of food production in the USA – industrial, pastoral (including ‘industrial organic’ and ‘beyond organic’) and personal (hunter/gatherer). Each of his four investigative journeys culminates in a meal.

You can get a flavour of Pollan’s thinking about nature and his enthusiasm for grass farming by watching this 18-minute TED talk:
Michael Pollan gives a plant’s eye view

Click here to go to the book’s website

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Prosperity without growth? The transition to a sustainable economy – Professor Tim Jackson

The report calls on world leaders to adopt a 12-step plan to make the transition to a fair, sustainable, low carbon economy.

Click here to download a copy of the report.

 

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Slow Death by Rubber Duck – Rick Smith / Bruce Lourie

Provocative and groundbreaking, Slow Death by Rubber Duck reveals how the living of daily life creates a toxic soup inside each of us.

Click here to visit the book website.

 

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The Legacy: An Elder’s Vision for Our Sustainable Future
– Dr David Suzuki

If he had to sum up in one last lecture all that he learned over his lifetime, what would David Suzuki say? The Legacy is an expanded version of the lecture he delivered in 2009 and tells the fascinating story of how we as a species arrived where we are today and presents his inspiring vision for the future.

 

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Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto
– Stewart Brand
“Ominous and exhilarating … The world must have, and soon, a series of debates on the many inconvenient challenges facing us, employing a small number of intelligent, provocative texts at the core; and this should be one of them.’ – E. O. Wilson

Click here to visit the author’s website.

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The Biggest Wake Up Call in History – Richard Slaughter

see link to website and link to Introduction

Slaughter has spent a lifetime in future studies so is well placed to comment on what is going on and to sketch out what might happen next. It is a very satisfying book to read as Slaughter first describes what has happened, then offers a very deeply thought through explanation of what is going on, then evaluates a comprehensive array of responses/predictions represented by movements such as Transition Towns and publications such as the Stern and Garnaut reports, against his explanatory theory.

His basis premise is that human intellectual development does not stop when we leave school and that as we develop, we become increasing sophisticated in our thinking and we are able to deal effectively with matters increasingly complex. He describes for levels of sophistication in thinking : Pre-conventional, Conventional, Post Conventional and Integral. As well as individuals thinking in different ways, they have different sets of values which he assigns colours to: Red = egocentric and exploitative, Amber – Absolutist and authoritarian, Orange – Multiplistic and strategic, Green – Relativistic and Consensual, Teal – Systematic and Integral, Turquoise – Holistic and Ecological.
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Here on Earth – Tim Flannery

link to ABC interview

This book is Tim Flannery  working through of his own post-Copenhagen despair.  He was tempted initially to see the victory by powerful opponents of climate change action as just another manifestation of Charles Darwin’s survival of the fittest, winner take all evolutionary theory.

The book traces through the path of his own reflections on the issue that have led him to emerge with a message of hope. He describes the work of Darwin’s co-discoverer of the theory of evolution, Alfred Wallace. Wallace, rather than focussing on the minutae of evolution took a whole of system, big picture view. He noted the many feedback loops that are at work in natural systems that, despite the red in tooth and claw aspect of individual behaviour, in the end lead to stable cooperative systems of remarkable diversity beauty and resilience.

The Gaia idea is the most potent spelling out of how this “consciousness” works. Flannery believes that we will evolve to recognise the need to put the long term future of the planet ahead of our short term wants, and that with advances in technology we will have the ability to continuously monitor the health of environmental systems and thus intervene with changes in our behaviour and other remedial actions

 

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A Short History of Progress – Ronald Wright

link to Ronald Wright

Author Ronald Wright is a Canadian archeologist, novelist and documentary maker. The book revisits some of the ground covered by Jarrad Diamond in “Collapse” and then goes on to explore the warnings given by thinkers and writers of earlier times about the need for caution in our embrace of innovation and technology. The myths of Prometheus, Icarus and Pandora, novels such as Frankenstein and Erewon are more significant for us than any previous generation, but are we listening? According to Wright, civilisation as we know it is a giant pyramid scheme, pulling in the earth’s resources on the periphery at an ever increasing rate to prop up pincacle. And like all pyramid schemes….. I was disappointed that the book has nothing to say about the process of the transition we need to make, but there is some analysis of past civilisations that did operate on a sustainable basis for many centuries.