Peter Seidel’s curiosity has led him to many places, geographically and intellectually, looking for answers to largely ignored questions and ideas that are vital for the future of our species. His travels include North and Central America, Europe, Russia, Israel, Egypt, Mali, India, Nepal, Thailand, China, and Japan; partly by hitchhiking, bicycle, canoe, foot, and ski. After having been a farmhand, factory worker, Alaska salmon fisherman, and carpenter and studying electronics, Seidel became a student of architect Mies van der Rohe and city planner Ludwig Hilberseimer. After receiving a Masters degree, he spent a year in Europe visiting architectural masterpieces, savoring European life, and working in the architecture office of the University of Munich, and the city planning office of Frankfurt. Around 1960, while working in Chicago on environmentally damaging office and institutional buildings he read a book describing the dangers of excessive population growth and looming resource shortages. Disturbed by what he was doing, he turned to teaching (over time, at five different institutions including universities in China and India) and developing ideas for environmentally and socially sustainable communities. This led to employment as master planner for a community of 60,000 outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. When this project was halted because of funding problems, he took up developing, designing, and building energy-conserving urban infill projects on vacant inner-city parcels. As public interest in sustainability declined after the end of the Arab oil boycott during the Reagan Administration, Peter started to investigate the troublesome question of why, when we understand the many environmental dangers we face, we don’t take meaningful action to deal with them. This led to publishing a number of articles in academic journals on this subject and three books: Invisible Walls: Why We Ignore the Damage We Inflict on the Planet...and Ourselves, Prometheus Books, 1998; Global Survival: The Challenge and Its Implications for Thinking and Acting, edited by Ervin Laszlo and Peter Seidel, SelectBooks, 2010; a novel, dramatizing the likely future consequences of environmental neglect and indifference, 2045: A Story of Our Future, Prometheus Books, 2009. His most recent book, to be released on 11/1/2015, is There Is Still Time: To Look at the Big Picture ... and Act.
“An astute look at the many negative influences currently shaping our world, along with ideas to overcome them.”
– Kirkus Reviews
A longtime environmentalist looks at the state of the world and our prospects for surviving the future.
In this book on the environment and humans’ role in shaping the world, Seidel (2045: A Story of Our Future, 2009) criticizes many aspects of modern life, from population growth to the spread of misinformation. He also offers a list of methods for combating the negative outcomes he sees as likely to result from current practices. A lengthy appendix, written by Gary Gardner of the Worldwatch Institute, supplies data and analysis to substantiate the points Seidel discusses in more general terms. It’s often a bleak picture of humanity in which the tendency toward irrational and misguided behavior on both individual and group levels seems to be unstoppable: “We are clearly on a path headed for catastrophe, and although there is abundant information about what’s wrong and what we can do about it, we are failing to respond in a rational, responsible way.” Seidel looks not only at damage to the physical environment, but at violent tendencies throughout history, the fates of past civilizations, and the psychological distance that can limit the impact of widespread but impersonal suffering. Although Seidel predicts a gloomy future if current practices continue, he has many suggestions for bringing about positive change, from the psychological (understanding thought processes in order to change them) to the practical (improving science education) to the radical (“Associations of economists, environmentalists, scientists, geographers, and historians could develop and give tests” requiring candidates for public office to prove their knowledge). While frustration occasionally gives way to hyperbole—“Global warming and other environmental problems were not even discussed in the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign”—the book’s statements are usually based on evidence documented in a substantial list of citations. Seidel’s blend of pessimism and idealism brings intellectual heft to this unconventional approach so that we might “move beyond our current stalemate and make real progress towards sustainability.”
An astute look at the many negative influences currently shaping our world, along with ideas to overcome them.
Pub Date: July 1, 2015
Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Review Posted Online: June 25, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015
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