This week we’re beginning to upload excerpts from the 100-page appendix to Fleeing Vesuvius which was published in New Zealand by Living Economies over the summer, at the invitation of Richard Douthwaite. It should be of interest to anyone who is preparing for the transition to a post-fossil-fuel economy.
In his preface, Jonathan Boston of the School of Government at Victoria University of Wellington provides an overview of the many environmental challenges we face and suggests that the book, which he considers to be “unusual, critically important and refreshingly provocative”, will provide useful tools to help us meet them.
Fleeing Vesuvius is unusual, critically important and refreshingly provocative. It is unusual because it brings together a remarkably diverse range of contributions from people with a multiplicity of perspectives and backgrounds – the arts, business, research, medicine, agriculture, law, architecture, community development, journalism, policy advice, and engineering, to name but a few. It is important because it addresses some of the most morally significant and politically challenging issues currently facing humanity, in particular the risks of long-term environmental and economic collapse and how these risks can be mitigated. And it is provocative because it contains radical and controversial views on how humanity should reform its global, national and local institutions to ensure a sustainable future.
The circumstances prompting such a book are well known. For almost half a century, and certainly since the publication in 1972 of two landmark reports – The Limits to Growth published by the Club of Rome and a special issue of The Ecologist entitled A Blueprint for Survival – there has been lively debate about the capacity of the Earth’s resources and biophysical systems to sustain exponential economic growth. The fact that there are planetary boundaries is rarely disputed. What is in question concerns the nature of these boundaries and their implications for human beings.
In recent years the international debate over planetary boundaries has intensified. In part, this has been prompted by growing concerns within the scientific and policy communities over anthropogenic climate change and its likely (and potential) ecological, economic, social and political impacts. But there has also been mounting evidence that humanity is inflicting many other types of damage to vital biophysical systems and living well beyond the planet’s means – perhaps as much as 40%-50% more annually than nature can regenerate.
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