Thursday, July 5, 2012

Shelf Life [adult]

The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World, by Paul Gilding @SPL: 304.2 Gil
I’ve reviewed a few books in this space undertaking analyses of the whys of 2008’s financial crisis and our unstable recovery. I haven’t found a lot of books, though, that take an accessible, entertaining look at what our future recovery will look like. Books examining the environmental factors underpinning the crisis and our slow recovery are also scarce.
In light of this, I was thrilled to discover Paul Gilding’s The Great Disruption. Gilding’s a rarity: A long-time environmental activist with a good understanding of the science of climate change, he also has strong roots in the world of finance, having started and headed a few corporations meant to marry his environmental ethics with the cold, hard reality of the free markets.
In The Great Disruption, Gilding articulates the conclusions he’s come to after occupying his unique position on the political spectrum for a number of years. The news, as you may have suspected, is not all good.
After a light, fatalistically entertaining literature review of key studies in climate change since the mid-20th century, Gilding concludes we simply can no longer count on economic growth. There’s no more planet left to grow the economy. We are out of resources; growth is putting us further into environmental and economic debt, when what we really need to do is ration what little natural capital we have left. From there, we can transition as seamlessly as possible (mind the yawning chasms) into a new economy that rewards sustainability and quality of life instead of sheer GDP expansion.
Gilding has a detailed vision of what such an economy will look like, and he’s excited for the future. He freely admits that the transition to a sustainable economic and social model will likely hurt before it feels better, but he argues that the resulting social order will be so much healthier for ourselves and the planet that we will wonder why we didn’t make the change sooner.
Some environmentally-minded folks will take exception to Gilding’s grudging embrace of markets as a tool toward restructuring our lives, but that’s okay. This book is meant as a conversation starter, and while Gilding is enthusiastic about his vision he’s also open to other environmentally-friendly visions for the future.
The Great Disruption is a call to action of any kind in service of the planet, a wild, funny call-to-arms that will move anyone interested in building a better life in a reasonable footprint.

This review appeared in The Stratford Gazette on June 28, 2012. Written by Shauna Thomas, Librarian.

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