Book Reviews 2010

Eaarth - Bill McKibben (2010)
"Read it, please. Straight through to the end. Whatever else you were planning to do next,
nothing could be more important." —Barbara Kingsolver
Twenty years ago, with The End of Nature, Bill McKibben offered one of the earliest warnings about
global warming. Those warnings went mostly unheeded; now, he insists, we need to acknowledge
that we've waited too long, and that massive change is not only unavoidable but already under way.
Our old familiar globe is suddenly melting, drying, acidifying, flooding, and burning in ways that no
human has ever seen. We've created, in very short order, a new planet, still recognizable but
fundamentally different. We may as well call it Eaarth.
That new planet is filled with new binds and traps. A changing world costs large sums to defend—
think of the money that went to repair New Orleans, or the trillions it will take to transform our
energy systems. But the endless economic growth that could underwrite such largesse depends on the
stable planet we've managed to damage and degrade. We can't rely on old habits any longer.
Our hope depends, McKibben argues, on scaling back—on building the kind of societies and
economies that can hunker down, concentrate on essentials, and create the type of community (in the
neighborhood, but also on the Internet) that will allow us to weather trouble on an unprecedented
scale. Change—fundamental change—is our best hope on a planet suddenly and violently out of balance.
The Great Reset – Richard Florida (2010)
In THE GREAT RESET, bestselling author and economic development expert Richard Florida
provides an engaging and sweeping examination of these previous economic epochs or “resets,”
distilling the deep forces that shaped their physical and social landscapes, reshaping economies and
societies. Looking toward the future, Florida identifies the patterns that will drive the next Great Reset
and simultaneously reshape virtually every aspect of our lives—from how and where we live to how
we work to how we invest in individuals and infrastructure, and how we shape our cities and regions.
Florida shows how these core elements, when taken together, will spur a fresh era of growth and
prosperity, define a new geography of progress, and stimulate surprising opportunities for each of us.
Among these forces will be:
· new consumption patterns and new assumptions about “ownership” that are less centered
around houses and cars,
· new forms of infrastructure that speed the movement of people, goods and ideas
· a radically altered and much denser economic landscape organized around megaregions that
will drive the development of new industries, jobs and a whole new way of life.
We’ve weathered tough times before. They are a necessary part of economic cycles, giving us a chance to see clearly what’s
working and what’s not. Societies can be reborn in such crises, emerging fresh, strong and refocused. Now is our chance to
anticipate what that brighter future will look like, and take the steps that will get us there faster.
Plenitude – Juliet Schor (2010)
Schor (Born to Buy) introduces her concept of plenitude as a way forward after the recent shattering
of global capitalism and continued rise in CO2 emissions. Plentitude is a commitment to enjoying—
not exploiting—nature's richness, to envisioning environmental, economic, and psychological health
as braided and capable of growing symbiotically and more securely than the business as usual
practices that imploded in 2008. Schor pleads for avoiding planetary ecocide: even though the polar
ice caps are shrinking and 38% of the 45,000 species studied by the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature are under threat of extinction, the West—particularly Americans—continue to
create waste and gobble up resources at unsustainable rates (in 2006, the U.S. emission of CO2 was
19.7 metric tons per capita, compared to 1.3 in India). Fortunately, the interest in alternative energy,
recycling, and clean nanotechnologies is increasing, and Schor encourages readers to match it by
breaking out of a work hard/spend hard cycle, thereby improving both the environment and quality of
life. It might be utopian, but it's also fresh, persuasive, and passionately argued, speaking to the
individual and the collective. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Thriving Beyond Sustainability: Pathways to a Resilient Society –
Andres R. Edwards (2010)
Every 15 seconds on our Earth Island, a child dies from waterborne disease. Three times an hour,
another species becomes extinct. Each day we consume 85 million barrels of oil and pump 23
million tons of carbon dioxide into an already warming atmosphere. But against this bleak
backdrop, beacons of hope shine from thousands of large and small initiatives taking place
everywhere from isolated villages to major urban centers.
Thriving Beyond Sustainability draws a collective map of individuals, organizations and
communities from around the world that are committed to building an alternative future – one
that strives to restore ecological health, reinvent outmoded institutions and rejuvenate our
environmental, social and economic systems. The projects and initiatives profiled are meeting
the challenges of the day with optimism, hope and results, leading the way in relocalization,
green commerce, ecological design, environmental conservation and social transformation.
Overflowing with inspiration, the stories and ideas in these pages will cause the most chronic
pessimist to see the glass as half full – to move beyond a perception of surviving with scarcity to
one of flourishing with abundance. The comprehensive resource section provides the tools for
everyone to become a catalyst for change.
Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse -
David Orr (2009)
"The real fault line in American politics is not between liberals and conservatives.... It is, rather, in
how we orient ourselves to the generations to come who will bear the consequences, for better and
for worse, of our actions."
So writes David Orr in Down to the Wire, a sober and eloquent assessment of climate
destabilization and an urgent call to action. Orr describes how political negligence, an economy
based on the insatiable consumption of trivial goods, and a disdain for the well-being of future
generations have brought us to the tipping point that biologist Edward O. Wilson calls "the
bottleneck." Due to our refusal to live within natural limits, we now face a long emergency of rising
temperatures, rising sea-levels, and a host of other related problems that will increasingly
undermine human civilization. Climate destabilization to which we are already committed will
change everything, and to those betting on quick technological fixes or minor adjustments to the
way we live now, Down to the Wire is a major wake-up call. But this is not a doomsday book. Orr
offers a wide range of pragmatic, far-reaching proposals--some of which have already been adopted
by the Obama administration--for how we might reconnect public policy with rigorous science, bring our economy into
alignment with ecological realities, and begin to regard ourselves as planetary trustees for future generations. He offers inspiring
real-life examples, as well, of people already responding to the major threat to our future.
An exacting analysis of where we are in terms of climate change, how we got here, and what we must now do Down to the Wire
is essential reading for those wanting to join in the Great Work of our generation.
David W Orr has contributed to Down to the Wire Confronting Climate Collapse as an author. David W. Orr is Professor and
Chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Oberlin College. He is the author of Ecological Literacy and Earth in Mind, as
well as more than 100 published articles.
Resilience Thinking - Brian Walker and David Salt (2009)
Increasingly, cracks are appearing in the capacity of communities, ecosystems, and landscapes to
provide the goods and services that sustain our planet's well-being. The response from most quarters
has been for "more of the same" that created the situation in the first place: more control, more
intensification, and greater efficiency. "Resilience thinking" offers a different way of understanding
the world and a new approach to managing resources. It embraces human and natural systems as
complex entities continually adapting through cycles of change and seeks to understand the qualities
of a system that must be maintained or enhanced in order to achieve sustainability. It explains why
greater efficiency by itself cannot solve resource problems and offers a constructive alternative that
opens up options rather than closing them down. In "Resilience Thinking", scientist Brian Walker and
science writer David Salt present an accessible introduction to the emerging paradigm of resilience.
The book arose out of appeals from colleagues in science and industry for a plainly written account of
what resilience is all about and how a resilience approach differs from current practices. Rather than
complicated theory, the book offers a conceptual overview along with five case studies of resilience
thinking in the real world.
Social Sustainability in Urban Areas
Communities, Connectivity and the Urban Fabric -
Edited By Tony Manzi, Karen Lucas, Tony Lloyd Jones and Judith
Allen (2010)
'Theory and practice around sustainable development have consistently been at their
weakest on how the social elements relate to the full picture. This intriguing book takes a
timely and critical look at different ways in which this social perspective can help create
genuinely 'sustainable communities'.'
Chris Church, Chair London 21 and Chair, UK Low Carbon Communities
This groundbreaking new volume on social sustainability offers both critique and creative
solutions. It challenges the conventional wisdoms of social sustainability and presents practical
examples of projects that will help practitioners to think carefully and innovatively about the
situations they are addressing.
The book consists of original contributions from academics working in the fields of urban
planning, housing, regeneration, transport and international sustainable development. Drawing on
case study research gathered in the UK, Europe and Africa, it adopts an original, interdisciplinary
approach to both theory and practice, illustrating the challenges and opportunities facing policymakers
and practitioners attempting to develop, manage and maintain sustainable communities.
The authors argue that the dominant approach of 'how to do' small scale social sustainability fails
to locate it within broader social processes. Ignoring the context not only sustains, but also actively reproduces wider inequalities.
The book presents a new, more coherent and more complete approach to issues of social sustainability in urban areas. The book
approaches current urban policy discourses in three different ways, represented by three sections: firstly focusing on small places
within the urban fabric, secondly addressing the whole urban fabric by examining whether changing urban living and working
patterns. The third section explores some of the ways that funding can be secured to achieve the aims of social sustainability and
the social planning associated with it.
One Planet Communities: A Real-life Guide to Sustainable Living –
Pooran Desai (2010)
Can we take deep green concepts about building sustainable communities to the heart
of our economic mainstream? From practical experience, we know we can - and do it
in a way which can be cost-effective, delivers higher levels of health and happiness
and, as a property developer myself, a better product to offer the customer.
I write this from my home in the BedZED eco-village in South London, completed in
2002. We are in another cold spell - yet our home remains warm with minimal heating.
Two car club cars are parked outside which means I don't own a car for everyday use. I
feel insulated against rises in oil prices and safe because of the strong community
spirit. My neighbours are ordinary people, not necessarily green fanatics. Not
everything has worked yet it is, truly, a great place to live.
It has been an amazing journey. We have monitored everything from greenhouse gases
to financial costs and social indicators. We have learned some hard lessons. Our most
important lesson perhaps is that to truly create communities we must look at our whole ecological footprint and to
think as much about green lifestyles as green buildings - the software of sustainability as well as the hardware.
Communication is as important as measuring carbon, and success will depend on how all aspects of sustainability
are brought together coherently.
This book describes BedZED and the next step in our journey, working with leading developers and municipal
authorities around the world to apply the One Planet Living framework. The book is both a story and, hopefully, a
guide. I am grateful for the opportunity to share our learning and that of our partners.
Pooran Desai, February 2010
Creative Community Planning – Wendy Sarkassian and
Diana Hurford (2010)
"Creative Community Planning" provides clear access to emerging innovations in artistic,
narrative, embodied and technological methods. Reflecting on the wide continuum of
participatory practice, the authors explore the frontiers of community engagement within a fresh
sustainability framework. Leading planning theorists, researchers and practitioners in the field
reflect with the authors on the many successes and challenges in engaging with a diversity of
people in rural and urban communities. These conversations reveal creativity as key to enhancing
existing engagement practices. Concepts and practical applications thread through the book,
including community visioning, participatory research and reporting, conflict resolution, poetry
and planning language, theatre, photography, film and websites.
Living Green: Communities that Sustain – Jennifer Fosket and
Laura Mamo (2010)
The key word in this title is "communities." It's an idea we've let languish too long, and it's inspiring to read these
accounts of its comeback -- Bill McKibben, author Deep Economy
"This interesting book analyzes green communities thriving in North America and the people who
build them. The authors provide case studies of a commune in Virginia, an ecovillage in L.A., and
green active adult communities among other examples. The book ends with a list of 10 lessons about
social sustainability." - Sierra Club, The Green Life
Social issues are, and need to be, a central part of environmental and economic sustainability efforts.
Using stories of extraordinary communities across North America, Living Green showcases the social
side of living green.
The book features communities that explicitly integrate social and human factors into their design and
planning, and examines the impact living in these communities has on personal health, well-being,
and the capacity for pursuing sustainability. It includes interviews with developers, architects, and
residents, highlighting personal ideals and efforts to pursue a sustainable lifestyle.
The book’s three parts explore:
· How community is central to sustainable living in everything from cohousing to communes
· Communities that specifically integrate green building design components with social justice politics such as racism,
poverty, and urban alienation
· Housing options geared toward mainstream living that offer individual choices to those who wish to live green
Written for those desiring to hear a good news story, Living Green will appeal to individuals and communities living a
sustainable lifestyle, green building activists, and academics in sociology, planning and design, architecture, and environmental
NEW POLITICS OF PLANNING : How States & Local Governments
Are Coming to Common Ground on Reshaping America's Built
Environment - Arthur C Nelson & Robert E Lang. (Dec. 2009)
Chronicling land-use controls from the past generation, this analysis describes recent changes
in state perspective toward managing community growth. Case studies of six states,
representing diverse political cultures and locations, are analysed in regard to how they have
dealt with issues such as public facilities, transportation, open space, affordable housing, and
economic development. Showing how other states are handling newsworthy matters such as
sustainability and infrastructure to improve the quality of life in communities the examination
provides perspectives on many issues, including voter willingness to raise taxes for transit,
open space, and related smart growth initiatives; increasing state protections of private
property rights; and the rise in special districts and private governance. (Urban Land
The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your
Life and Build Community. NOLO (2010)
You may be motivated and committed to creating a more sustainable lifestyle in your
community, but where do you start? And how can you do it without the hassle and legal
entanglement that so many greener initiatives seem to require? The Sharing Solution guides
you, in plain English, through the steps you’ll need to take to create and maintain successful
sharing arrangements.
From housing to childcare, cars to lawnmowers, gardens to bike repair, The Sharing
Solution gives you the tips and tools to share your resources, while addressing commonly
held questions about liability and individual security with compassion. How can you benefit
from sharing?
· Get help with meals and pet care
· Share needed resources in retirement to save money
· Buy property with others if you can’t afford a single-family home
· Work fewer hours while reducing living expenses
· Grow your local economy with community initiatives
· Plan to make big purchases with others to keep costs low
And, if you’re concerned about the environment and want to start living greener, The Sharing Solution is filled with
environmentally sound ways to build a more sustainable – and affordable – lifestyle. Get the only book that provides the practical
tools you can use to make sharing agreements. As noted author Alice Walker says, “Sharing is the answer…”
Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing - Global
Green USA (2010)
Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing" explores a wide range of case studies colorfully
describing the unique features of developments in cities like Atlanta, Georgia; Seattle,
Washington; and Chicago, Illinois, considering each of the projects’ financing and green
building strategies.