This book will blow your mind. And not necessarily in a “good” way. At least if you’re like me: a hard-core rationalist who favors science over belief, but a skeptic when it comes to sniffing out belief-dependent realism, who nevertheless has more than a few “green” sympathies. (If you’re a hard-core conservative your head may simply explode — though there is much in here to appeal to the thoughtful conservative).
But here it is at last: a book that takes as its starting point the global reality as laid out by the most current science: we are happily living our way into oblivion as we tinker with the biological and climatological balances that have sustained our existence for millennia. But that’s not the hard part (unless you’re that “hard-core conservative” mentioned above). The hard part is accepting how wrong many of us “greens” have got things over the last years, exhibiting our own version of a willingness to ignore science and fact.
In short, our future survival may depend much more on a spreading affluence throughout the developing world that will lead to increased urbanization and an increased use of nuclear power and genetically modified crops. Gulp. Of course, that’s not all that this book lays out. But the gist of it is something I have long suspected: we are far too many now to “go back” to any notion of simpler times, living off the land, burning beeswax candles and weaving our own wool from our own sheep on our own little farm (at least not in large numbers).
There are so many of us, in fact, that any wider attempt to “return to the land” would push our environment into disaster from a destructive consumption of our little remaining bio-diverse habitats. It turns out that humans are much, much more efficiently housed and employed in cities, and that the more that developing nations develop, the less pressure there is on land use and the environment in general (just one of the realities that goes against some “green” thinking).
The main point the author makes is that we are already tinkering with our climate and environment in profound ways, so the “whether or not to do it” question is moot. What confronts us now is whether we should begin to see ourselves as “global” engineers, and begin to act consciously and with purpose in a way that utilizes the best science we have to keep the planet in balance so that we can continue as a species…the “God” species.
I remain skeptical of human over-confidence, as it often metastasizes into hubris. So, in short, I don’t trust US to “manage” things on a planetary scale. Yet the science (and hence the facts) are pretty much undeniable (except, of course, to those that are motivated to deny them).
I think we should all read this book. Whether it holds the answers or not is not the issue. It does, I think, point us in the direction of where the answers to our survival will be found, and that is a very important step indeed.