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.