Systems Thinking and Climate Change:  Review of “The Path to a Livable Future” by Stan Cox

Reviewer’s Note:  I had the pleasure to review a proof of Stan Cox’s forthcoming book.  I recommend it strongly and offer high praise, though caviled by a few nits.  Please read on.

path to a livable future

Recent events have awakened even some typically passive people to the enormity of the synthetic disaster that is anthropogenic climate change.  Though who “agreed with the Science” and had, to use a childish phrase, “their hearts in the right place, “but who went about their lives as normal, over-consuming Western individuals have been shocked to see fatal heat waves in otherwise temperate climes, fires raging and polluting the already questionable air, floods devastating communities, once abundant water disappearing, and of course a global pandemic of epic proportions.  These events have created just enough discomfort to wake some people from their slumber, but few have the vocabulary of action to know what to do.  As these people contemplate the savage details of the world we bequeath to our children and theirs, others claim great righteousness in their denial of the facts.  One thread binds the two camps, however, which is a plan, based on Science, which could actually help humanity stave off existential suffering and extinction.

The world is of course uneven, whatever dilettantes like Thomas Friedman might suggest.  To be born and live in Nepal or Sierra Leone is for the most part to generate a hell-of-a-lot less carbon than to be born and live in the United States, Australia, or Europe.  Ironically those who on a per capita basis generate the least carbon are also the most susceptible to the depredations and devastations of Climate Change, with some nations *actually* disappearing as we speak and countless communities dissipating as the ecosystems that support them burn away.

The news continues to get worse.  The most recent IPCC report issues a “code red” for humanity and acknowledges that many of the effects of anthropogenic climate change are already baked-in to our baking world.  The 1.5 degree threshold is now a foregone conclusion.  The Gulf Stream is at risk.  Glacier calving is daily news.

Against this backdrop, Stan Cox’s “The Path to a Livable Future” is an excellent intervention in an often sterile debate.  The title says it all- we need a path to be able to follow and we need to understand that what is at stake is not a perfect future, an entirely comfortable future, or anything even resembling that; instead, it is a merely livable future.

Cox’s strength is his Systems Thinking, in which he links inequalities, racism, imperialism, and capitalism run amok both to the causes of Climate Change, but also to our ability to deal with and adapt to a warming world.  He calls for what he deems a “New Politics” and offers clear steps to achieving the state of being required to launch a desperate fight to save the Earth (and our position in it) from all-out disaster.

Key here is to fight “Lock-in.”  As we live today, even heroic personal efforts hardly make a difference because of the idea that we as a species live in an Economic and Social system that is “locked-in” to overproduction, overconsumption, waste, inequality, and inertia.  We have to change the axioms that govern how we collectively act and live.  “Growth”—that normative “good” that our entire economy is based on—has to be replaced with “De-Growth.”  We have to adopt an antipodal philosophy in which our default behaviors are reversed.

Cox is not just a theoretician.  His work at the Land Institute and elsewhere as a voice of activism and organizing gives me a special purchase to talk about real, active solutions.

His latest book must be read and his clarion call heeded.

The Book is published by City Lights Publishers

Romi Mahajan in an Author, Marketer, Investor, and Activist

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Romi Mahajan

Romi Mahajan is an Author, Marketer, Investor, and Activist

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