Updated June 18/07 to add one more star (up from 2 to 3) simply for listing so many ideas. Also added a little qualification to my list of further references at the end.
The primary challenge, I think, of those who seek to change the world is to figure out a way of garnering a critical mass of like-minded individuals and then implementing the change on a large enough scale to make a difference.
It seems a bit of a watershed was reached this past summer, vis-a-vis environmental awareness, with the cinematic release of Al Gore's doc "An Inconvenient Truth (AIT)" and various reports on climate change out of the EU and the UN. The book Worldchanging fits in well as a follow-up to AIT for people who are only now realizing that biosphere-threatening problems exist in the world - ecological, social, economic and cultural. As a pre-emptive strike against the masses being overwhelmed and simply escaping into their Starbucks addiction (or perhaps as simply a shot in the arm), the folks at the Worldchanging blog site have compiled a large collection of specific ideas and initiatives garnered from around the world .
The idea is great and for the purposes of an introduction to a host of topics which could fall under the slippery rubric of "sustainable development" in a manner accessible to the general public, this book is probably a good choice. I haven't come across any other book which so captures the variety of topics in an intellectually accessible way. It's a bit like a (non-comprehensive and very brief) encyclopedia which could capture the imagination of teens and adults seeking exposure to local/global issues and cultures who haven't had the opportunity to gather information from sources other then mainstream press.
Unfortunately - and what earns it a 2 stars - while the book has very good breadth in the topics, the depth and quality of the content I found wanting. I give a couple of examples below.
First some more good things about the book.
1. It appears to be very well bound and finished.
2. it introduces the reader to a multitude of ideas. Lots of stuff. See their website for a general list of categories.
3. It includes a (slim) bibliography and references for further reading (which is definitely needed - the further reading, that is).
So, what are the problems.
1. The cover is pretentious and includes a listing of many (most?) contributors names in black down the spine. And here's another book on environmental issues with an unnecessary outer sleeve to waste yet more fibre.
2. I didn't recognize any of the contributors' names and I've been reading sustainable development books and journals for the last year and a half in grad school and attending various conferences on human sustainability for longer. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it does raise questions as to why at least a few prime movers, shakers, thought leaders and recognized experts aren't present. Maybe the editors thought there was already too much thinking going on and dammit, we're about action.
2. Issues here with veracity of the content. Some examples:
2.1. I'm a native Vancouverite (Canada). The included blurb about how wonderfully sustainable Vancouver is was contributed by the same person who edited Vancouver's 2010 Olympic Bid Book - the sales brochure for why Vancouver should be chosen by the IOC. Hardly a source for objectivity. The write-up is predictably rah-rah and, as is often the case, it blurs the line between the City of Vancouver (ca. 550,000) and Greater Vancouver (ca, 2,000,000) when it talks about the city's track record and its development. This colours my impressions of other contributions. At the 2006 UN-Habitat World Urban Forum (hosted by Vancouver), a European delegate I spoke with called it "The Vancouver Illusion."
2.2 Open ocean aquaculture is mentioned briefly and it doesn't mention the problem of parasites and disease that are and have been transmitted to wild stocks and in some cases wiped them out.
2.3 Seed-saving and seeds are mentioned without making reference to one of the most well-known activists/speakers/authors on the topic of seeds, biotechnology, corporatism, farms and water - Vandana Shiva. Nor does it mention the epidemic of farmer suicide.
2.4 Consumerism - The book opens with a couple of pages on our consumption habits and being smarter consumers and makes brief mention that perhaps a reduction in consumption is required (in the North) but it doesn't seem to suggest that perhaps we'll actually need to slash our consumption by a huge amount which is likely the case.
2.5 Didn't come across a critique of our capitalist system and whether or not infinite economic growth - which is our chosen path - is consistent with sustainable living for all species. Might be there, just didn't see it.
- a worthy objective,
- succeeds sort of as a family discussion starter,
- I have a lack of confidence in the content soundness and at times felt it misleads the reader as to the really salient issues.
- seems to have been written by a bunch of energetic folk anxious to DO something but extra effort seems to have been spent on packaging the content rather than the content itself.
- if you read this book, promise you'll do other reading to flesh out the real facts. This book is a quick blast through a multitude of complex issues.
I really had high hopes when I first saw this book on the web. It arrived last Friday, I returned it today.
Here is a short, very much non-comprehensive list of authors to read as well as some organizations to look-up on-line for in-depth information to keep you busy learning for weeks (not to suggest that I agree with all of their ideas. In fact, make sure you have your critical thinking and greenwash detection skills engaged with some of these references.)
Vandana Shiva, Marq de Villiers, Marc Reisner, Jeffrey Sachs, Stephen Lewis, Jared Diamond, David W Orr, John Todd, Greg Mortenson, E O Wilson, Paul Hawken, Herman Daly, Richard Louv, Thomas Homer-Dixon, Joseph Stiglitz, Tim Flannery, Fritjof Capra, George Monbiot, Sim Van der Ryn, Jane Jacobs, Worldwatch Institute, Earth Policy Institute, Earth Institute at Columbia, International Institute for Sustainable Development, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, CorpWatch, Corporate Europe, UN-Habitat and several thousand more.
This list won't cover off all of the topics initiated in WC; it's left as an exercise for the reader to discover more!