BOOK REVIEW - WAR AND PEACE AND WAR
Peter Turchin is an evolutionary biologist who has turned his expertise in modeling the rise and fall of animal populations to explore similar processes in empires. In his book "War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires" (2006, Pi Press and Plume Book, Penguin Group, New York), he explores world history to understand what makes empires grow and then collapse, looking at Russia, Rome, Islam and Medieval Europe, among others.
Climate sceptics have recently been claiming that global warming has paused since 1998 despite rising levels of greenhouse gases, confirming their belief that it is not man-made and therefore that no action is necessary. This is the latest argument in an on-going campaign of disinformation on the issue, complicated by the ideological and political dimensions that the debate has taken in some countries (USA, Canada, Australia).
There has been great debate on whether the precious few financial resources that have made it through stalled UNFCCC climate negotiations should be channeled mostly towards funding resiliency for fragile, vulnerable, rural communities or rather to design and build out REDD+ (Reduced Emission from Deforestation & Degradation) emission reduction activities.
I have recently had the pleasure of reading Eric. D. Beinhocker's book The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity, and the Radical Remaking of Economics. Cambridge: Harvard Business School Press; London: Random House, 2006. 526 p. As someone whose whole scientific career has been in systems science, I found it encouraging that mainstream business people are finally waking up to the fact that traditional economics is based on the wrong premises about human nature and purpose, and about the way complex systems of all kinds work and evolve.
A recent question about the famous 1972 study for the Club of Rome on "The Limits to Growth" touches on the heart of our challenge today as Baha'is and others working to transform society. Baha'u'llah warned us about civilization carried to excess, and said that the old world order would be rolled up (like an old carpet) so that a new one could be laid out in its stead.
For those who have been following the line of thinking about the potential collapse of civilization, starting with The Limits to Growth (1972) and including Jared Diamond's Collapse and Thomas Homer-Dixon's The Upside of Down (see Dahl 2008), there is an interesting new approach from a mathematical modeler.
A question many of us are struggling with is whether, with the seeming inevitability of possibly catastrophic climate change, we can still have hope for the future.
I have just posted the following contribution to the UN World We Want 2015 web site (http://www.worldwewant2015.org) on the topic: Framing Environmental Sustainability in the Post-2015 Agenda. They asked two questions:
What are the barriers and enablers to gradually moving towards environmental sustainability?
Fragmented institutions and short-term perspective
Bankrupting Nature: Denying our planetary boundaries. A report to the Club of Rome. Anders Wijkman and Johan Rockström. London: Earthscan from Routledge, 2012. 206 p.
I was recently asked about the relationship between climate change and highly political issues around fossil fuels and energy independence. This raises an important issue about the linkages between all the different processes that make up our economy and human-planetary system, none of which can be resolved in isolation. Can we treat the scientific parts of the problem separately from the economic and political parts? How far can participation in dialogue go before it becomes too political and divisive?