Do you see all the signs that climate change is coming at us like a freight train while society dawdles and denies?

If you fear for the future, and sometimes feel almost paralyzed by the magnitude of the menace, then The Great Disruption by Paul Gilding is the book for you.

Gilding has served as head of Greenpeace, has build companies and been consultant to big corporations and is now based in Cambridge University’s Programme for Sustainability Leadership, and his experience has given him hope for the future.

The subtitle of his book is Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring on the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World.  That sounds positively upbeat, doesn’t it?

Gilding believes we are rapidly coming to the tipping point where growth will not be possible any longer.  The resources are running out.  He also believes it will not be too much longer before the majority of people in the world grasp that we need to mobilize our efforts to get carbon emissions down to a less damaging level in the environment.

He feels the beginnings of that new infrastructure are already starting to emerge.  It’s bigger than we think because the media is largely ignoring it.  A new non-growth way of doing things is beginning to form, and when the time comes, will go rapidly to scale.  There are many movements already gaining momentum.  And as more and more people join, the balance will tip.  (Hopefully in time)

The corn needed to fill an SUV tank can feed a person for a year! (photo credit

We already have tools like freecycle  and the No Impact Project   and the Compact,  a group of people dedicated to not buying new products to slow down our out-of-control growth economy.

We already have investment funds with environmental and social criteria.  Learn more at The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment  Investment in renewable energy is on the rise.

and will help us survive the economic, political and environemental crises we face.

Gilding argues that we will change because we must change.  “With a world population increasing to 9 billion people this century, on what part of our already shrinking arable land supply will we grow more crops, more lumber, more CO2-removing trees? ”

Part of the answer of how humanity (and the remaining other species) survive is that those of us with too much are going to have to let a lot of  it go.  Let wealth be redistributed more fairly and learn to be happy with less.  Gilding argues it will be easier that we think, and he believes that when we have managed to create a non-growth, sustainable culture, we will be happier.  The growth model is no longer working, and really hasn’t been for most of our lives.

He quotes Robert Kennedy who said in 1965,

“Too much and for too long, we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community value in the mere accumulation of material things.  Our Gross National Product … counts air pollution and cigarette advertising and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.  It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them.  It counts the destruction of the redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.  It counts napalm and it counts nuclear warheads, and armored cars for the police to fight riots in our cities.

Yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.  It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measure everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile”.

If you ever wonder why you keep trying to live sustainably — The Great Disruption will give you the gumption to keep on trying.  I say, if you only read one book this year – make it The Great Disruption.

What book do you want everyone to read?

7 replies

    • Very interesting. Is that where you live? What kind of veggies can you grow there now? What are you aiming at?
      I’d love to know more.

  1. Uncanny coincidence: I opened your post in my RSS reader and, at the very same moment, heard an interview with Paul Gilding announced on Vermont Public Radio. This book was on my list, but now I must read it soon.

    Personally, I continue to wish that everyone (yes, everyone) would read Omnivore’s Dilemma. So many people continue to be completely unaware of where their food comes from, and I think that’s a tragedy.

    On both counts, food and climate change, we as a society are in near total denial. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people wait until they have no choice before changing lifestyle. Whether it’s gobbling oil or gobbling poor quality food, most people aren’t willing to change comfortable habits.

    Sorry to be so glum! I’ll continue to make my changes and influencing others in any way I can.


    • Thanks for your feedback, Eleanor. I can relate to glum. It’s pretty hard not to fall prey to moments of despair when looking straight on at what is happening. But you should definitely get a copy of the The Great Disruption as soon as you can. It really has re-energized me.
      It is not by any means all sweetness and light, but his interpretation (and he has some good credentials and good references for his position) is that it is still possible to avoid total collapse. It’ won’t be the same as it used to be or even as it is now, but it will be livable, and in some ways better because if we are able to pull back it will be because society has managed to recalibrate its values toward a more sustainable and ultimately more rewarding life that we are living now in the midst of all our destructive comforts.
      He also feels that more and more people are coming to this conclusion but that they are not being covered in the media any more than the current effects and consequences of climate change are being covered, so it’s both worse and better than the main stream media makes it seem.
      It’s a good read!
      I also love anything and every thing that Michael Pollan has written. Omnivore’s Dilemma was very good. Knowing where our food comes from is step one, in my book. I’m going to end this comment and head for the Wednesday Farmer’s Market this morning!

  2. I knew where most of my food came from on my plate today and it was very satisfying. Goats cheese made by me from a gift of goats milk from a friend who lives nearby, beaver sausage from a hunting friend, all on home-made pizzas using veg from the garden and a salad picked this afternoon.

    I am tempted to read the book you suggest but I do have a stack of books still to read and so resisting at the moment.

    • That sounds like a good meal, Joanna. I’m vegetarian myself, but I am mulling over situations in which I might eat meat. Sustainably hunted beaver might be one of those situations.
      In Madison, the town where I am living one more year till we get our house built on our land, the past few years have seen an explosion in the rabbit population. They are everywhere. They are fearless. They are taking a major toll on every garden that has not yet been fenced in.
      I wonder that meat eaters haven’t taken to setting traps and having rabbit stew.
      I think it will happen when food gets more costly. That situation will probably help deal with the excess deer population as well.
      As a non meat eater, I find it odd that our state is being overrun with dear that are damaging both natural areas and some crops, while meat eaters import their meet from massive, soul/and environment-destroying CAFOs when there is meat on the hoof in the area doing damage in their excessive numbers because they have no natural”predators.

  3. The rules here in Latvia are crazy. I have just found out that we cannot organise getting the pigeons disposed of that were hoovering up the buckwheat we had just planted. Shooting season is August and only for some types of pigeons. There is a chance that the rules are changing to enable farmers to protect their crops but until then all we can do is post flapping pieces of ribbon around the field and make noises to discourage them. When the rules change then we shall be eating more game I think.

    One amazing fact though is that wild rabbits are actually very rare here in Latvia, we have hares but not rabbits except for the occasional escaped pet. A fact I am extremely grateful for.

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