ONEPLANET Sustainability Review

Sustainability Research, Reviews and Signposting

Food for Thought: Four Books and a Seminar


Two books have surfaced that are particularly exciting: The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis by Jeremy Rifkin and Requiem for a Species: Why we resist the truth about climate change by Clive Hamilton, both of which are now on order.  These are interesting because at first glance they seem to be looking at the more socio-political elements of the Global Environmental Change and Climate Change (CΔ) debates and appeal to interests in social thought and social philosophy, as well as the psychological aspects of environmental change.

Again, Tim Jackson’s Prosperity without Growth is a game-changer, engaging and refreshing despite things some people might consider dry. See this brief previous post.

Bjorn Lomborg’s tome, The Skeptical Environmentalist, came recommended a few years ago by the late (and tragically so) building environmental engineer, Mel Starrs.  It might be easy to be put off going beyond chapter 1 for two reasons: firstly, one might find oneself somehow almost subconsciously concerned about adopting a sceptical outlook, particularly if you find yourself a little too easily convinced by much of what you read (perhaps that’s because we consciously choose to read titles and papers we’re pre-disposed to agree with…!); secondly, one might find that at an early / introductory stage of inquiry the facts, figures and formulae might be just a bit more information than one is prepared to engage with, particularly if you’re looking for lighter introductions to challenging topics.  Oddly enough, the Danish establishment doesn’t seem to like Lomborg’s arguments about climate change solutions any more. They cut funding to his thinktank earlier this year… see the Guardian article here.

An unexpectedly interesting talk by Martin Mulligan from RMIT is entitled Towards a more grounded and dynamic sociology of climate change adaptation; here Professor Mulligan is talking about the sociological boundaries of engaging people more in what might be called internalising, or personalising, the issues in CΔ by creating an ‘embodied experience’ in Martin’s words.  Depending on your background and inclinations, you might find yourself less more or interested in the artistic-creative aspects of his work; certainly compelling is the story-telling idea of engaging skilled writers to produce fictional but realistic scenarios of climate change outcomes with which people can empathise and thereby internalise relevant issues.  The aim was perhaps to make CΔ less of an academic, distant problem, whilst making the stories about CΔ much more meaningful to people on a distinctly personal level so they are inclined or compelled to take action, if not sit up and pay attention at least…! Martin will also be at Goldsmiths in London on 21 Nov, see here.

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Part of the Problem? or Part of the Solution?

Rampant consumerism.
Widespread unsustainable lifestyles.
Unsustainable business practices.
Damaging and unsustainable travel and transport.
Extensive environmental degradation and biodiversity loss.
These are some of the problems we face.
Energy crisis.
Financial crisis.
Uneducated and un-empowered.
Environmental damage.
Food and water shortage.
Climate change.
Are you part of the problem,
Or are you part of the solution?

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