BN.com Gift Guide

God's Last Offer: Negotiating for A Sustainable Future

Overview

Monumental changes are occurring on the planet, yet most people are unaware of them. In God's Last Offer, environmentalist Ed Ayres paints a vivid "big picture" of where the world is headed. He identifies a lethal combination of events — radical climate changes, increasing species extinction, unsustainable consumption, and exploding human populations — and presents a blueprint for a radical shift of policies and priorities to avoid a cataclysm.

Read...
See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (25) from $1.99   
  • New (9) from $2.89   
  • Used (16) from $1.99   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing 1 – 7 of 9
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$2.89
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(753)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New
PAPERBACK New 1568581742! ! ! ! BEST PRICES WITH A SERVICE YOU CAN RELY! ! !

Ships from: Philadelphia, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$2.89
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(311)

Condition: New
PAPERBACK New 1568581742 XCITING PRICES JUST FOR YOU. Ships within 24 hours. Best customer service. 100% money back return policy.

Ships from: Bensalem, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$3.33
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(1848)

Condition: New
1568581742 BRAND NEW. We are a tested and proven company with over 900,000 satisfied customers since 1997. We ship daily M-F. Choose expedited shipping (if available) for much ... faster delivery. Delivery confirmation on all US orders. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Nashua, NH

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$45.00
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(193)

Condition: New
Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
$769.56
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(470)

Condition: New
PAPERBACK New 1568581742! ! KNOWLEDGE IS POWER! ! ENJOY OUR BEST PRICES! ! ! Ships Fast. All standard orders delivered within 5 to 12 business days.

Ships from: Southampton, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$769.58
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(2528)

Condition: New
2000-08-10 Paperback New 1568581742 Ships Within 24 Hours. Tracking Number available for all USA orders. Excellent Customer Service. Upto 15 Days 100% Money Back Gurantee. Try ... Our Fast! ! ! ! Shipping With Tracking Number. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Bensalem, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$769.58
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(1007)

Condition: New
PAPERBACK New 1568581742 Friendly Return Policy. A+++ Customer Service!

Ships from: Philadelphia, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing 1 – 7 of 9
Close
Sort by
Sending request ...

Overview

Monumental changes are occurring on the planet, yet most people are unaware of them. In God's Last Offer, environmentalist Ed Ayres paints a vivid "big picture" of where the world is headed. He identifies a lethal combination of events — radical climate changes, increasing species extinction, unsustainable consumption, and exploding human populations — and presents a blueprint for a radical shift of policies and priorities to avoid a cataclysm.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Booknews
The author explores the interconnected nature of our world's growing problems and our own involvement with them. First, he identifies the four dangerous megaphenomena that are altering life on Earth: the rise of carbon gas emissions, the rate of biological extinctions, unsustainable consumption, and the exploding human population. He then exposes the sophisticated techniques used by corporations, institutions, and governments to perpetuate public indifference. He suggests that what is necessary now is a shift in how we learn and perceive as well as how we relate to other cultures, species, and generations. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
Carefully researched science journalism and alarmist polemic mingle in an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it treatise. Ayres, editorial director of the Worldwatch Institute, uses a wealth of statistics and published reports to trace what he calls "a blitz of enormous biological and physical alterations in the world that has been sustaining us." This blitz, he goes on to say, comes to us in the form of four "spikes": a surge in the presence of carbon gases in the atmosphere, causing the by now well-reported increase in global warming; a marked rise in the rate of extinction of plant and animal species; an increase in the human consumption of natural resources; and a potentially cataclysmic rise in human population. These spikes, Ayres says, cannot be understood in isolation; they all feed into one another, with the mere presence of more people requiring the use of more wood, water, plants, and animals. Ayres's use of science in making this foundational argument is solid and seemingly inarguable. He takes a more emotional tone with the second part of his book, which is directed toward policy issues. Why, he asks, does it seem as if no one cares that the world is in grave danger? He argues that the media, operating under the guise of objectivity, do little to convey the urgency of the bad environmental news he reports. "When the media," he writes, "dwell on crimes, crashes, and scandals, they provide a rich diet of distractions from news of the spikes that are killing us. For those who have interests in keeping the public thus distracted, no conspiracy is necessary; all that's needed is to let the media do what they already have a strong financial incentive to do"—namely, to let thecorporations whose advertising sustains them run rampant. Ayres's apocalyptic tone is at odds with his earlier cool scientific rationality, and it may cause some readers to dismiss his well-made glimpse into a difficult future as simply more doomsday-speak.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568581743
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 8/28/2000
  • Pages: 358
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.33 (h) x 1.04 (d)

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


THE FOUR SPIKES


* * *


                                 Four revolutionary changes are sweeping the world, and they will transform everything. Though these changes may be as momentous as our long-forgotten transition from hunter-gatherers to city-dwellers, or from animal-powered work to machines, most of us may be only vaguely aware that they are happening at all.

    Of course, everyone who has dared to notice knows that we're in a time of growing turbulence: not a day goes by when there isn't more news of potentially world-changing consequence. Things are changing far faster than we can keep track of them, and there are some familiar catchphrases about how we react: we're "stressed out"; we're "overwhelmed." In the 1960s, car ads reveled in change: each new year brought dramatic unveilings of new models loaded with new features. Now, in stark contrast, a TV commercial depicts a woman being battered by the complications and stresses of everyday life—then offers an antidote. The noise stops, her frantic motion stops, and there before her is a car. Superimposed over the image of the car are the words "Simplify. Honda Accord." The ad is highly deceptive, of course. The internal combustion-powered automobile, the extended rush hours, the poisonous air that now shrouds Mexico City, Denver, and Beijing, and the global trade that drives the production of such cars everupward, are big parts of what is overwhelming us. But the advertisers understand our stress. They also understand our confusion, and know we probably won't grasp the deep irony of such an ad—if, indeed, they grasp it themselves.

    There are too many things happening for most of us to make sense of it all, and many people have given Up trying. It seems, sometimes, as though we've been caught in a fire storm, with flak flying in all directions, and with no way of knowing what's happening or what is causing it. But if we can put this fire storm on replay, and track back through the webs of cause and effect, we can see a comprehensible—and startling—picture begin to emerge. On a graph of evolutionary change, four megaphenomena appear. Over a period of a thousand centuries or so, these phenomena look fairly stable—their rates of change as slow as the shifts of continents or the evolution of species. Then, within the span of just a few years—the years in which we live—they spike. The most disturbing of the changes we are experiencing—and will be experiencing much more profoundly in the next few years—can be traced largely to the effects of these four spikes.

    In some respects, these megaphenomena represent momentous new opportunities for humankind—opportunities that may be sensed instinctively by people like the entrepreneurs of new technology who have made large fortunes in recent years. More demonstrably, though, they represent dangers of a magnitude that is hard to convey without seeming to lapse into hyperbole. The weight of scientific evidence now makes it clear that what we do now to confront and meet the challenge of these megaphenomena, will largely determine whether human civilization can survive in the long term—and whether our own generation will meet its rising expectations or enter a time of deepening impoverishment and regret.

    The four spikes are causally connected, each adding fuel to the others. Together, they are hurling us into a spiraling loss of capacity either to see or to control where we are going. But before we can understand how these four phenomena interact, it's essential first to get a clear view of each of them individually, as a discrete trend.


THE CARBON GAS SPIKE


Everyone in the industrialized world has heard, ad nauseam, about the problem of global warming, or of the rise in carbon dioxide emissions that contributes to it. But there is little in what most have heard to suggest that this problem—or the endless wrangling over it by politicians and industries—is any different than the hundreds of other global issues that come and go in the news. Whether these issues concern global stock markets, illicit drugs, ethnic conflict, emboldened terrorists, military alliances, or the endangered environment, all seem to generate endlessly irreconcilable debate. So, we frown or shrug and move on to the next issue.

    In 1997, global warming took its turn in the media (not for the first time) with the news that an international conference would be held that December in Kyoto, Japan, to negotiate a global climate treaty. The gist of the story was that some climate experts were saying the high levels of carbon dioxide ([CO.sub.2]) pumped into the air was warming the Earth dangerously, although other experts weren't so sure. Delegates of 160 countries—most of the countries in the world—had agreed to negotiate a treaty requiring all countries to participate in a complicated scheme to reduce the world's total emissions of [CO.sub.2] from factories, power plants, motor vehicles, wood fires, and other sources.

    From what the media reported, any casual consumer of the news would likely have drawn the following conclusions:


* Scientists are divided on the issue: some believe the large quantities of [CO.sub.2] released by human activity are causing global warming, but others aren't so sure;
* Even if warming is occurring, it's not necessarily a big problem, and if restricting [CO.sub.2] would hurt the economy, then that really isn't warranted at this time;
* If warming is a problem, the climate treaty will take care of it;
* This issue is no more urgent than a long list of others clamoring for our attention.


    These inferences could hardly be more mistaken. In fact, while scientists are independent-minded people who normally argue with each other endlessly about details of methodology or interpretation of their findings, by the time of the Kyoto meeting they had formed an extraordinary worldwide consensus. A task force of leading climate scientists from 98 countries, known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, had studied the problem exhaustively and had issued a 1995 report warning that this is a problem of enormous consequence. The report had been authored not by one or two leading researchers as most scientific studies are, but by 78 lead authors and 400 contributing authors from 26 countries, whose work was then reviewed by 500 additional scientists from 40 countries, and then rereviewed by a conference of 177 delegates representing every national academy of science on Earth. The IPCC had been unequivocal in its conclusions that (1) warming is happening, rapidly; (2) human activity is causing it; (3) the warming is likely to unleash devastating weather disturbances ranging from unnaturally heavy storms and floods to heat waves and droughts; and (4) it is therefore urgent that carbon emissions be cut sharply all over the world, but particularly in the industrial nations where these emissions are heaviest.

    If all this got largely lost in the news surrounding Kyoto, there was one other conclusion that got completely buried: the agreement, as drafted, would actually do little to stop the world's climate from becoming dangerously disrupted. The treaty called for cutting [CO.sub.2] emissions from industrialized countries by a total of about 5 percent below 1990 levels worldwide by the year 2010 (7 percent in the heavily industrialized United States), but the IPCC scientists noted that to stabilize climate would require a cut of at least 60 to 80 percent.

    It wasn't the climate scientists, however, who were to write the treaty. In a world of increasing specialization, that wasn't their job. The negotiations were done by politicians, bureaucrats, and diplomats. In the end, after years of wrangling (including another global conference in Buenos Aires a year after Kyoto), the negotiators failed to come up with any credible way of averting the threat this carbon spike poses. They failed because they were acting under the guidance not of climate scientists, but of an international coalition of oil, coal, electric power, automotive, and chemical industry interests whose products are the main sources of the rising levels of [CO.sub.2]. They are the same industries that have dominated the global economy for the past century and that apparently intend to continue that domination far into the next century—even if doing so means waging a kind of war.

    Despite such periodic spasms of publicity, most people have paid little attention to greenhouse gases, and it's not hard to see why. Carbon dioxide, after all, is a normal constituent of the atmosphere, and in that capacity it is quite harmless. In fact, it's essential to life. As most of us learned in elementary school (and were repeatedly reminded by oil and coal industry representatives during the climate treaty debate), the [CO.sub.2] exhaled by animals is as necessary to the growth of plants as the oxygen released by plants is necessary to the breathing of animals. Carbon dioxide and oxygen are inseparable partners for life.

    When the concentration of [CO.sub.2] began to rise sharply about two centuries ago, no one was really aware of it. During the nineteenth century, a few scientists began speculating that increased carbon emissions (mainly from heavy burning of coal) could increase solar heat retention, but these speculations attracted little interest. In the mid-twentieth century, when the rise was accelerating sharply, our minds had been abruptly turned to a far more charismatic atmospheric worry: we'd be rained on by the fallout of nuclear bombs. Almost no one dreamed that the quiet rise in carbon dioxide could eventually induce a kind of violence that rivals even nuclear war.

    Excess [CO.sub.2] prevents the Earth from radiating heat at its normal rate. It's like making someone run in a rubber suit on a hot day, which could quickly cause that person to overheat and develop disrupted patterns of breathing, sweating, and behavior—and eventually, spiraling core temperature and death. The Earth's response to overheating is a disruption of its normal patterns of wind and precipitation, and the power of that disruption can be staggering. "An average hurricane represents the energy equivalent of half a million [Nagasaki-sized] atom bombs," wrote climate researcher Lyall Watson in his 1984 book Heaven's Breath: A Natural History of the Wind.

    That comparison may be theoretical, but the point is valid: our most awesome weapons still pale beside the potential powers of the living planet, and it will not serve us well to unleash those powers unwittingly. Fortunately, hurricanes typically expend most of their energy precipitating water over open ocean and rarely strike cities head-on. But that will change, at least by degrees, as cities spread out over more of the planet's surface, and as hurricanes get larger and more frequent. At the time Watson wrote his book, the largest natural disaster ever to hit the United States had been Hurricane Betsy in 1965, which produced about $1 billion worth of damage. In 1992, the damage inflicted by Hurricane Andrew amounted to $25 billion. Even allowing for inflation, Andrew was ten times as devastating as the previous record holder. Since Andrew, total annual storm damages worldwide have quadrupled. And most climate scientists agree that this may be only the beginning. Indeed, after Hurricane Mitch left much of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Belize in ruins in 1998, BBC News reported that the storm had "blown away the scale scientists use to measure severe storms."

    That the air we exhale should have such power defies credulity. But it's easy to forget that in both plant and animal physiology, small tolerances often spell the difference between health and disease—or life and death. Vitamin A, white wine, and sleeping pills are all benign or beneficial at the right times and doses, but lethal in excess. A one-degree rise in body temperature may be within normal range, but a seven-degree rise, if not quickly reversed, is fatal.

    What's true for individual people or plants is true for the planet as a whole, which has many of the same kinds of balances found in individual organisms. The biosphere has evolved, over eons, a set of fine tolerances in the composition of its air and the temperature ranges of its ecosystems. Those tolerances shift naturally over time, and the planet's ecosystems evolve slowly with those shifts. If the fundamental planetary chemistry undergoes a large change suddenly, however, there's no time for evolutionary adaptation. The effect will be like that of a heat stroke in a rubber-suited runner—or of a dangerously high fever in a child, with no known medicine available to reverse it.

    For an indication of just how fine the tolerances of the living planet are, consider the density of [CO.sub.2]'s partner, oxygen. At present, oxygen constitutes a little over one-fifth of our air (the bulk of the air is nitrogen). If the concentration of oxygen were to increase by 20 percent, say physicists, all the vegetation on Earth would burst into flame and virtually all life would be destroyed—most of it within hours. (Oxygen alone wouldn't cause the fire; it would take a spark. But of course, there are billions of sparks in the air at any moment.) Carbon dioxide accounts for much less of the air than oxygen and doesn't pose that kind of risk, but in the past half-century the concentration of [CO.sub.2] has already increased by about 30 percent. Graph 1 shows how sudden that increase has been.

    The concentration of [CO.sub.2] began a slow rise with the global expansion of human development, which over the past several millennia has reduced the world's forest cover by one-half. Trees store much of the planet's carbon, and when trees are burned to make space for farming or to produce heat for cooking, the carbon is released. In recent centuries, as forest storage capacity declined, more carbon remained in the air—and the concentration rose. But the big surge began with the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the mechanization of activities once performed mainly by people's bodies, or by the bodies of other animals such as horses or oxen. Transportation, farming, mining, manufacturing, and communications had all been done by animal power, but within the span of a century they shifted largely to the power locked in fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas. The concentration of [CO.sub.2], which had increased by about 1 part per million every 400 years through most of our species' expansion, began rising 100 times as fast—by an average of 1 ppm every 4 years between 1800 and 1970—and since then has accelerated even more, to another 1 ppm about every 8 months.

    What's interesting about this Shift, from an ecological standpoint, is that as the industrialized world made its big move from animal to fossil fuel energy, the main byproduct emitted into the air didn't change. A woman working a hoe, or walking to carry yams or melons to market, exhales [CO.sub.2], and so does the diesel-powered tractor or truck that replaces her. So the difference is one of scale, and here's a great irony—and potentially a great tragedy—of industrialization. What technology does for humanity is not to give us new kinds of powers, but only to magnify the powers we already had. A car, for example, gives us the same transportation services we get from legs, but vastly expanded. "Driving l0,000 miles per year is equivalent [in energy consumption] to the personal services, around the clock, of 30 servants,' wrote physiologist Henry A. Bent of North Carolina State University a few years ago. And so it goes: the tractor does the work of hundreds of arms; the telephone extends the distance a voice can reach by thousands of times; the computer expands on the powers of human memory beyond anything we thought conceivable a few years ago. These are simple cases, but all human industries are expansions of ourselves. Even something as complex as a coal-powered electric power plant and distribution grid, for example, is basically a gargantuan substitute for the legs, arms, and backs of peasant farmers gathering wood or dung for fuel.

    These huge expansions of our natural powers have been cause for frequent celebration, as invention piles on invention. And as our powers have expanded so has our sense of ourselves as having unlimited powers. What's been overlooked is that the byproducts multiply just as impressively as the services do, and in fact multiply even more steeply, because the energy efficiency of oil- or coal-powered machines or electricity is far lower than that of the human-powered work we have increasingly abandoned. So, while the output of our industry is multiplied hundreds or thousands of times, the amount of waste it produces—including [CO.sub.2] and heat—is multiplied even more.

    In many respects the benefits of the techno-multiplication may be unarguable, but in other cases it is completely irrational. For example, consider the man who mows his average-sized suburban lawn with a gasoline-powered riding mower, then drives a gasoline-powered car to the local gym, where he pays good money to walk on a Nordic Track machine and exercise the very muscles he'd have used to push a hand-powered mower. Is it that this man is being taken for a ride in more ways than he realizes, or is it that his ability to integrate knowledge has been severely underdeveloped or damaged? It's a critical question, because this kind of misguidance now drives our lives in uncountable ways.

    If we increase the temperature of a human body by 20 percent, or the oxygen in our air by 20 percent, we know what happens. The result is quick death, whether to the individual or to the biosphere. But what happens when we encounter an even larger increase in carbon dioxide?

    That was the question studied by the scientists of the IPCC. Their first report had come out in 1992, and it was that report—little noticed by the public—which alerted the world's fossil fuel industries that their domination of the global economy might be in jeopardy.

    Soon after that report came out—several years before Kyoto—these industries launched a countercampaign of unprecedented sophistication. Centered in the United States but with tentacles worldwide, it played on two kinds of fears to which people were becoming increasingly vulnerable in the age of globalization: fears of economic setbacks and of cultural invasion. [This was also the period during which the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the European Union (EU), and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC) were coming to power, and many people were nervous about losing their jobs either to immigrants arriving or employers departing.] What made the campaign especially insidious, and hard to discredit, was that both of those threats are real. The world has entered economically precarious times, and cultures on every continent are being homogenized and diluted.

    In the mid-1990s, more than a hundred major corporations in the coal, oil, utility, motor vehicle, and chemical industries, among others, assembled a formal lobbying organization, the Global Climate Coalition (GCC), to conduct this campaign. All told, the GCC probably wielded more power over the global economy than even the OPEC cartel that had established an economic stranglehold in the 1970s, but the GCC was far less visible—it was made up of transnational companies, not countries. In the year preceding Kyoto, however, the GCC placed a $14 million barrage of ads in US media, warning that if governments took actions to reduce [CO.sub.2] emissions (which would mean in some way limiting sales of coal, oil, and gas), those actions would "cripple the US and global economies."

    That assertion, for which no substantiation was offered, diverted attention from the question of what risk we would take by not reducing emissions. In the United States, TV commercials warned that requiring industry to reduce emissions would cause gasoline prices to rise by 40 cents a gallon. The ads did not mention the possibility that the alternative to that modest risk might be to impose a far greater risk—of devastating increases in flood or hurricane damages, shrinking water supplies, or the pervasive ecological disruptions that could be triggered by rising temperatures. The possibility of higher gas prices was just annoying enough to keep those larger risks out of the debate.

    The fear of cultural subversion was subtler. The essence of it was that if a global treaty were imposed, the sovereignty of individual nations would be threatened. The GCC campaigners took particular care to arouse the fears of US politicians, some of whom were known to be deeply hostile to any "globalist" developments (such as the growing influence of the United Nations) that might raise challenges to US sovereignty. The Kyoto agreement called on the industrial countries, which were producing the heaviest [CO.sub.2] emissions, to take the lead in cutting them back. In those countries, the output had reached more than three tons per person, per year—compared with only half a ton per person in the developing world. But just before the convention, the GCC began asking, in a final blitz of newspaper and TV ads, "why should developing countries, like China, be given lesser obligations?" The ads pointed out, correctly, that rapidly industrializing China, with its huge population and vast reserves of coal (the worst of the carbon-emitting fuels) could soon produce quantities of carbon gas that would obliterate any gains made by US or European cutbacks. It was a persuasive argument, with the issue of "fairness" successfully diverting policymakers' attention from the question of how to avert the consequences the scientists had warned of.

    This effectively aroused anxieties in both the developed and developing countries—instigating rancorous arguments between them and further distracting them from the thing that threatened them both. The US politicians didn't want to get caught obligating their country to carry more than its share of the burden. The developing countries didn't like the thought that hostilities toward them were being aroused in rich countries, and that this might result in restrictions that would inhibit their future economic development. One of the most bitter responses to the US position came from Kinza Clodumar, president of the tiny Republic of Nauru, an island in the South Pacific that will be particularly vulnerable to any rise in sea level produced by global warming. (The rise is coming both from partial melting of polar ice caps and from thermal expansion of the ocean water.) The industrial countries have produced the bulk of the [CO.sub.2] so far, Kinza pointed out, and if they don't take the lead in reducing it, countries like his face "a terrifying, rising flood of biblical proportions." This would amount to "willful destruction of entire countries and cultures" and would constitute "an unspeakable crime against humanity," he told delegates to the Kyoto conference. This wasn't exactly what the GCC wanted to hear. But by provoking such rancorous rivalries among governments, its campaign effectively kept the world distracted from the real problem: that it didn't really matter who bore the brunt of a 5-percent cut if plans weren't soon made to phase out the world's coal- and oil-based energy industries altogether:

    When the Kyoto treaty was signed, environmentalists cheered. The World Resources Institute called it "an historic step in the history of humanity." The Global Climate Coalition appeared to have been defeated, because it had loudly called for not signing, but the delegates had signed nonetheless. But in the weeks that followed, it became clear that the GCC had won. The treaty would still have to be ratified (Kyoto came up with the wording, but not the legally binding commitments), and the fears of economic disaster were now beginning to fester. Another convention was set for Buenos Aires, Brazil, in late 1998, to work out details of implementation. The negotiations leading up to this were voluminous enough, if fully transcribed, to fill a dump truck. But all those negotiations were over procedures that could never solve more than 5 percent of the problem and are very unlikely to end up doing even that.

    Almost forgotten, in all the fuss over the climate treaty, was a far more meaningful and less compromised document that had been written five years before. In 1992, the same year the climate scientists of the IPCC issued their first report, a broader assemblage of 1,670 of the world's most accomplished scientists from all fields issued a joint statement, the World Scientists' Warning to Humanity.

    The Scientist's Warning was concise, written in English as the most accessible language of international communication. At the time, much less was known about the mechanisms and magnitudes of climate change than is known now, but enough had been discovered to impel these scientists to take extraordinary action. In their introduction, they wrote:


    "Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course."


The statement listed the specific kinds of human activity that are courting danger and ended with a section entitled "What We Must Do," that listed five principal declarations. The first one began: "We must ... move away from fossil fuels to more benign, inexhaustible energy sources to cut greenhouse gas emissions...."

    The statement was signed by 104 Nobel-Prize winners in the sciences—a majority of all those still living. But though they would finally convince a few automotive and oil industry leaders that their industries really have come to a critical juncture, neither the scientists of the Warning nor those of the IPCC would be able to influence general public perceptions—or policies—the way the GCC hard-liners would over the next few years. In the year following Kyoto, the construction of new coal-burning power plants would continue in China as though nothing had happened; hundreds of new oil wells would be drilled in the oceans; millions of new gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles, vans, pickup trucks, and luxury cars would continue to be sold, most of them with even lower fuel efficiency than a decade earlier; and the spike of carbon gas would continue to rise.

(Continues...)

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction - A Diminishing Capacity for Astonishment 1
1 The Four Spikes 9
2 The Obstructions to Perception 47
3 The Shocks of Synergy 91
4 Ambushes of the Past and what they Tell us 125
5 Do you know where you Got your Information? 149
6 Information Denied, Disregarded, or Disappeared 185
7 Keeping up with Shifting Power 225
8 You 253
9 The Offer 281
Notes 309
Index 343
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2002

    A Very Important and Timely Book

    After reading this very well researched, cogent analysis, I am increasingly convinced that the world is threatened as perhaps never before, that it is urgent that steps be taken immediately to move the earth away from its present perilous path, and that a shift to plant-based diets is an essential part of the changes that must be made. Ed Ayres is extremely well qualified to write this book as he is editor of 'Worldwatch' magazine, the semi-monthly publication of the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington-based thinktank that produces annual publications, including 'State of the World', that aim to alert people to current critical environmental threats. Ayres is also editorial director of the Institute. His book makes it abundently clear why the following ancient rabbinic teaching that has been generally ignored over many centuries is extremely relevant today: In the hour when the Holy one, blessed be He, created the first person, He showed him the trees in the Garden of Eden, and said to him: 'See My works, how fine they are; Now all that I have created, I created for your benefit. Think upon this and do not corrupt and destroy My world, For if you destroy it, there is no one to restore it after you.' Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:28 In his compelling, well written book, Ed Ayres stresses the importance of what he calls four megaphenomena that are having great effects on the world today and increasingly will threaten the world's future unless fundamental changes are made. These are four revolutionary changes or spikes in variables that had been relatively constant throughout history: the carbon spike, the extinction spike, the consumption spike, and the population spike. Here is a brief summary of Ayre's discussions of these four important spikes: 1) The carbon spike: There is an extraordinary worldwide concensus of climate scientists about global warming and its potential impacts. After a thorough study and several reviews of their findings, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a task force of leading climate scientists from 98 countries, unequivocally concluded that global warming is already rapidly occurring, that human activites that increase atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are a major driving force, that global warming is a problem of enormous consequence that will continue to unleash devastating weather disturbances ranging from unnaturally heavy storms and floods to heat waves and droughts, and therefore it is essential that carbon emissions be cut sharply worldwide. There seems to be abundant reinforcement for these conclusions from many recent news reports of record temperatures, severe hurricanes and other storms, and severe droughts in Israel and other countries. 2) The extinction spike: While largely invisible to most people, this spike may ultimately be the most important one, because it threatens to unravel the web of life that sustains our everyday lives. Many biologists believe that we have entered the fastest mass extinction in the world's history, possibly even faster than the period when the dinosaurs died out. 3) The consumption spike: The global economy expands as much in a year today as it did in any entire century prior to 1900. This rapid increase in commerce is drawing down the earth's finite resources far faster than natural processes can regenerate them. Hence, along with rapid population growth, rising levels of unsustainable consumption contributes to many current environmental and climatic crises. 4) The population spike: while it took all of world history up to about 1800 for the world population to reach its first billion people, in recent years there have been increases of a billion people about every 12 years. While the world faces many critical environmental threats with its present 6

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)