Edward Wolf offers a trio of books reviews about planetary transformation and systems at Worldchanging in Straight Talk for the Planetary Era:
Diplomats from 193 countries prepare to hammer out a global climate treaty in Copenhagen. But few expect this year’s activism, politics, or diplomacy to change the game. The 21st century to-do list keeps growing. What will it take to accelerate change?
Three recent books say that it’s all about thinking. In The End of the Long Summer, Dianne Dumanoski tells how our thinking got us in planet-scale hot water; in Whole Earth Discipline, Stewart Brand advocates heresy to get us out; in Thinking in Systems, the late Donella Meadows teaches a different way of thinking altogether.
While the subject matter of this trio of titles may sound familiar to Worldchanging readers, all three books deserve a careful read. Each of these authors is an elder with wisdom to impart. It’s up to the generation building a bright green future to match that wisdom to new challenges.
n The End of the Long Summer, Dumanoski applies the lessons of the ozone story to the challenge she calls “a planetary emergency . . . that involves far more than the pressing problem of climate change.” She examines evolutionary and modern history for clues about our capacity – as a species and as a civilization – to act. Dumanoski’s criterion for success in the coming century is not prosperity, but survival. If she is right, success will boil down to our ability to “shockproof” societies to withstand changes unlike any confronted during the 10,000-year run of the civilization project.
Her storyline is not for the faint of heart. Human activities have destabilized several fundamental flows of the Earth system. The comparative climate stability experienced during the “long summer” of the last 10,700 years is the exception in Earth’s history. Big changes in climate are underway, no matter what actions societies take to control emissions. Abrupt climate changes are possible and growing more likely as carbon emissions rise. The thinking that built a globalized civilization capable of disrupting planetary systems also makes that civilization more vulnerable to the consequences of instability.