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The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization Hardcover – Oct 31 2006

3.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Canada; 1 edition (Oct. 31 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0676977227
  • ISBN-13: 978-0676977226
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.4 x 24.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 930 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #214,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

From Amazon

Here's a wonky but serviceable analogy for getting a handle on the sweeping, fact-jammed, exhaustively footnoted social critique that is Thomas Homer-Dixon's book, The Upside of Down. Think of Homer-Dixon as the psychiatrist and the world as his patient, reclining uneasily on a sofa and reciting a list of devastating woes including, but not limited to, environmental degradation, economic imbalance, and energy scarcity. If you were the world, you'd be stressed out, too and in dire need of assistance. As Homer-Dixon--a noted academic and the bestselling author of The Ingenuity Gap--neatly demonstrates in this riveting book that our world needs much more than the proverbial aspirin and good night's sleep to regain an even keel (that is, assuming it ever had one). Homer-Dixon offers some solutions.

In clear, accessible language, Homer-Dixon fingers the "five tectonic stresses accumulating deep underneath the surface of our societies" that, if left unchecked, "boosts the probability of major social breakdown." The tectonic stresses in question are the familiar thugs of overpopulation, dearth of fossil fuel energy, global warming, myriad environmental catastrophes (depleted forests, oceans etc) and, last but not least, that odious bastard, monetary inequality or the chasm between rich and poor.

Thanks to Al Gore and his ilk, the facts on offer aren't ground-breaking but they're shocking to revisit just the same. "Some of the most troubling news comes from Greenland," Homer-Dixon writes. "The island is covered by an enormous ice sheet that's about the size of Mexico and in some places about three kilometers thick--after Antarctica, it's the world's second largest body of ice. Scientists have recently found that the sheet's rate of ice loss has more than doubled in the past ten years, from 90 to 220 cubic kilometers annually. This year the ice sheet will dump into the ocean about 225 times the amount of fresh water that Los Angeles consumes." Or this: "According to a recent report from the World Bank, about 1.1 billion people, or one-fifth of the population of the world's poorest countries, live on less than what $1 a day would buy in the United States. About 2.7 billion people, or over half the developed world's population, live on less than $2 a day." This kind of puts that flat tire or missed aerobics class into perspective.

Homer-Dixon might catch some flak for casting his net too wide--each of these tectonic stresses is massive and almost too perplexing to comprehend much less fix. But there is no faulting the author's ambition or the coherent, persuasive way he presents his arguments. We'd all do well to listen. --Kim Hughes


“Thomas (Tad) Homer-Dixon is the giant-killer of overwhelming issues.”
Toronto Star

“[Thomas Homer-Dixon] is just the man for the job. . . . The book introduces general readers to a number of key concepts pursued by Homer-Dixon in his academic studies on the links between population growth, environmental degradation and global security. It is his ability to delineate those links that makes The Upside of Down such a sobering and stimulating read.”
Toronto Star

“Homer-Dixon [is] a magpie of knowledge.”
Times Colonist (Victoria)

“Thomas Homer-Dixon . . . has taken off the gloves with humanity. No more talk of what might occur. . . . A crash is inevitable.”
The Globe and Mail

“This is an ambitious book. . . . Those familiar with Homer-Dixon’s earlier work . . . will not be surprised by the wide-ranging scope and technical virtuosity of his writing. By any measure, this book is an impressive achievement. It is a thoughtful and thought-provoking book. . . . for those who want a clear and accessible overview of this catastrophist debate, and one with a Canadian flavour . . . this is a useful place to start.”
The Globe and Mail

"For over a decade, Thomas Homer-Dixon has provided that rare thing: a bridge between leading-edge research and the lay reader. Now, addressing the great problems of our time, he points us towards a path forward."
–Robert D. Kaplan, senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, author of Imperial Grunts and The Coming Anarchy

"Anyone who doubts the seriousness of the human predicament should read Thomas Homer-Dixon’s brilliant The Upside of Down. Anyone who understands the seriousness should also read it for Homer-Dixon’s insightful ideas about how to make society more resilient in the face of near-inevitable environmental and social catastrophes."
–Paul Ehrlich, President of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University, author of The Population Bomb

Praise for Thomas Homer-Dixon:
"Thomas Homer-Dixon is a sort of Bruce Chatwin of ideas. [His writing is] addictive."
National Post

"The greatest strength of The Ingenuity Gap is in Homer-Dixon’s ability to illustrate the thin line between order and chaos, prosperity and starvation, or compassion and carelessness in today’s world. The book is a wake-up call to all citizens to take notice of our collective deterioration and therefore . . . it has the potential to be one of the most important and revolutionary books of recent years."
Calgary Herald

"Thomas Homer-Dixon is one of the few people on the planet who could have tackled what he defines as the world’s overriding issue: the yawning ‘ingenuity’ gap between the need for practical solutions to complex problems, from global warming to Third World poverty, and the actual supply of workable ideas."

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