The Club of Rome’s The Limits to Growth comes in for a four-decades-later brushing up, and things don’t look good.
Canadian think-tanker and philanthropist Jackson (Shaker of the Spear: The Francis Bacon Story, 2005, etc.) has a similarly pessimistic view, though he mixes in New Agey sentiments (“I call the result of this restructuring effort the Gaian World Order to reflect the focus on the oneness of all planetary life in the emerging holistic worldview”) thick enough to make a climate denier long for the homespun wisdom of Al Gore. Jackson opens with catastrophic prophecy, but nothing that we haven’t heard before: We’re past the point of abundant and cheap oil, and all that depends on it, including much of global agriculture, will suffer accordingly. Moreover, there is danger of falling into a “fatal energy trap” whereby fossil fuel is no longer available to manufacture renewable energy mechanisms—wind towers, solar panels and the like. Jackson does not, strictly speaking, restate the Club of Rome conclusions of yore, but the approach is much the same, including abundant graphs and charts, a broad-ranging survey of ecological and political crises to come and a rather scattershot approach, with raw notes poured into paragraph form to resemble narrative. It is widely argued that the U.S. government has propped up bad-guy regimes around the world—so much a given that Jackson’s paragraph-long list of instances seems a species of overkill. Rhetorically, there are some questionable moments, too: Can NGOs really reflect “an expression of the dissatisfaction of citizens across the world with the way their governments have operated”? That would seem arguable, though this is not a book to be argued; instead, it seems destined for a pulpit before an audience of the faithful, and no one else.
Policy wonks will want a more disciplined argument, even if the “Gaian League” will probably have a cool flag.