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The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality Paperback – Sep 1 2011
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Economists insist that recovery is at hand, yet unemployment remains high, real estate values continue to sink, and governments stagger under record deficits. The End of Growth proposes a startling diagnosis: humanity has reached a fundamental turning point in its economic history. The expansionary trajectory of industrial civilization is colliding with non-negotiable natural limits.
Richard Heinberg's latest landmark work goes to the heart of the ongoing financial crisis, explaining how and why it occurred, and what we must do to avert the worst potential outcomes. Written in an engaging, highly readable style, it shows why growth is being blocked by three factors:
- Resource depletion,
- Environmental impacts, and
- Crushing levels of debt.
These converging limits will force us to re-evaluate cherished economic theories and to reinvent money and commerce.
The End of Growth describes what policy makers, communities, and families can do to build a new economy that operates within Earth'sbudget of energy and resources. We can thrive during the transition if we set goals that promote human and environmental well-being, rather than continuing to pursue the now-unattainable prize of ever-expanding GDP.
About the Author
Richard Heinberg is the author of nine books and is widely regarded as one of the world's most effective communicators of the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels. With a wry, unflinching approach based on facts and realism, he exposes the tenuousness of our current way of life and offers a vision for a truly sustainable future.
Senior Fellow-in-Residence at Post Carbon Institute in California, Heinberg is best known as a leading educator on Peak Oil and its impacts. His expertise, publications and teachings also cover other critical issues including the current economic crisis, food and agriculture, community resilience, and global climate change.
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If you have read John Perkins and understand the difference between dream and fantasy as taught by the shamans of the Amazon, and have read Jared Diamonds "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed", and you then read this book, you will see how the "American Dream" is really an American "Fantasy" in which we through ignorance, avarice or, worse than either, denial, continue to build our own versions of Moai on a shrinking planet that increasingly resembles Easter Island except that our ocean is the vastly greater and even more inhospitable universe.
If you can read this book without being either an optimist or pessimist, but a rational thinking person, then your biggest battle may just be overcoming denial. Denial will tempt you to see technology and substitutions for energy and other dwindling non-renewable resources saving mankind, or it may allow you to seek the comfort of flimsy arguments claiming why this is just so much alarmist doom and gloom, or it may simply come in the form of going on with your life as you always have done because it is so much easier to simply ignore and deny it. Although Heinberg does offer some actions to be taken, they are not simple in the context of your typical community mentality. So between fighting off the continual temptations of denial, the denial or ignorance of others, or the unpleasant task of doing something other than something entertaining, our lives will never be as easy again.
If you have some knowledge of the difference between the economic philosophies of Keynes and Friedman and you have a tendency to lean toward one more than the other like I had before reading this book, then you should know that we have had a serious problem of not seeing the forest for the trees. Heinberg snapped me out of that blind trance with some simple undeniable facts. The problem now is that I have to wonder sometimes which state I rather be in, denial, in the dark, or aware of the truth.
In Diamond's book "Collapse..." regarding Easter Island he refers to the question "What was the man thinking who cut down the last tree?" Each one of us knows the answer. It is what we are thinking today as we go on with our own lives on a planet with finite resources.
The book is well researched and written. However, for those individuals who have been following the literature of impending global civilization collapse, this book holds few surprises. What it does very well is explain in clear language the existing global economic system and how it has arrived at the very unstable and unhealthy state that we find it in. The book then fits this impending contracting and collapsing economic situation in with other trends that are propelling the civilized world toward collapse. In particular, it is based on the author's fervent belief in the physical limits of planet Earth and the necessity of building a new economic system that supports sustainable living.
The author warns readers who are unfamiliar with the literature of global civilization collapse that his book will likely undermine their "mental equilibrium in a way that is both deeply uncomfortable and exhilarating." I agree.
If you wish to read two pages in the book that the author uses to outline exactly how the book is constructed and summarizes the content of each chapter, use the "Look Inside The Book" feature at the top of the main page for this title in Amazon and search for the text string "Chapter 1 is a potted history." Reading this may help you decide on whether or not this book is for you.
The book is designed for readers with little to no formal training in economics. For those of you who are already convinced that we are headed toward global civilization contraction and collapse and desire a focused economic perspective, the book is recommended. For those of you who desire a broader or more academic treatment with rigorous arguments about the why and when of the predicted coming Great Contraction, you will probably want to look for another book.
A far better book that covers this general topic powerfully is Thomas Homer-Dixon's "The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization." That book was published at the beginning of 2008, so it has little light to shed on the current global economic instability other than to establish eloquently the trends that existed that would eventually cause the meltdown. I'd give Heinberg's book a solid three-and-a-half stars, while Homer-Dixon's books would win an enthusiastic five stars. I am not alone in my praise of this other book; it was designated as the "Best Book of the Year" by the "Financial Times" and won the Canadian National Business Book Award. I recommend that you read Homer-Dixon's book first, then, if you desire more on this theme that focuses primarily on the economy, read Heinberg's.
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