The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability

The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability

by James Gustave Speth

Here is one measure of the problem: if we continue to do exactly what we are doing, with no growth in the human population or the world economy, the world in the latter part of this century will be unfit to live in.

In this book Gus Speth, author of Red Sky at Morning and a widely respected environmentalist, begins with the observation that the environmental community has grown in strength and sophistication, but the environment has continued to decline, to the point that we are now at the edge of catastrophe.Speth contends that this situation is a severe indictment of the economic and political system we call modern capitalism.

Our vital task is now to change the operating instructions for todays destructive world economy before it is too late.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Environment
  • Rating: 3.82
  • Pages: 320
  • Publish Date: March 28th 2008 by Yale University Press
  • Isbn10: 0300136110
  • Isbn13: 9780300136111

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Such books seek to cover very wide ground, begin with alarming descriptions of disaster to come, then segue into the prospects of solutions. In his turn, James Gustave Speth emphasises the institutional solutions to environmental crisis, placing particular importance upon overcoming the political and cultural obsession with economic growth. The problem with doing so is that all of these books begin with very much the same description of the terrifying scale of climate change and environmental degradation. (On this basis, I'm thinking of recommending it to the undergraduates that I teach.) What strikes me as common to all books suggesting a systematic, successful response to climate change and other environmental problems is the necessity of cultural change.

Why I Read this Book: Ive always made it a priority to stay up to date on major world and environmental issues. If I had to quickly sum it up, Speths thesis is as follows: as a result of an incredible desire to grow and consume as a country, an economy and a planet, our world is heading down a very dangerous path to environmental destruction, and the time is right this second to start doing something about it. As I read through the staggering statistics of how we are using, growing and consuming much too fast for our own good, I felt this massive call to action. The last time I really felt this way from a global perspective was after reading Thomas Friedmans, The World is Flat a number of years ago. Speth has taken more the approach of extreme fear and guilt to encourage action and I think hes done it. As the book reads, Speth begins with the major problems and potential upcoming disasters of the environment to get the reader legitimately frightened. Speths point is that as much as our current definition of capitalism has done for our country and world, it is glaringly clear that this same form of capitalism is anything but sustainable in the future. Consumerism and materialism has taken over our society to a point where we often dont even realize that half the things we buy are totally unnecessary. The materialism and entitlement adds up and quickly trickles into corporations motivations and before long you can see why this country and this world are running so terribly low on resources. Over the years, we have been brainwashed to think that success is directly related to the amount of money we have and the things we own. Hopefully by now, as avid readers of Reading For Your Success and these books, you have realized that couldnt be further from the truth. Success is a dynamic concept in our minds that constantly changes as we learn and become aware of new ideas and priorities in our own lives and in the world in which we live. Might it be something as simple as starting to recycle or riding your bike to work, or perhaps more deep-rooted like focusing your lifes quest for success as an individual, entrepreneur, businessperson, mother or father in a way that will really change things.

He is simply presenting the facts and laying out the most likely futures.

I wish he relied more on rigorous, philosophical, or scientific argument to build a solution, rather than just trying to appeal to our feelings, desire for social connection, and spiritual yearnings.

Of course, this book also gave me a horrible nightmare that raccoons and badgers armed with 19th century rifles were hunting me while I hiked through the woods.

i think i will read his book "red sky at morning" which focused on the same topic but in the developing world.