Humanity on a Tightrope: Thoughts on Empathy, Family, and Big Changes for a Viable Future

Overview

When we think of family, we most often think of our sisters and brothers, our cousins and grandparents, rather than our world family or even our community connections. We still identify with our differences more than our similarities, unless it's convenient to do otherwise. Here, two seasoned authors tackle the question of family and what it means to us now and how it might change to help us address the problems that affect us all. Using specific examples throughout the work, they present a unique approach to ...
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Humanity on a Tightrope: Thoughts on Empathy, Family, and Big Changes for a Viable Future

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Overview

When we think of family, we most often think of our sisters and brothers, our cousins and grandparents, rather than our world family or even our community connections. We still identify with our differences more than our similarities, unless it's convenient to do otherwise. Here, two seasoned authors tackle the question of family and what it means to us now and how it might change to help us address the problems that affect us all. Using specific examples throughout the work, they present a unique approach to what it means to belong to one human family. Beginning with a consideration of how the family unit has begun to be defined by allegiances, by common ties and empathy, the authors then discuss the evolution of the family unit and how the "us" vs. "them" mentality gave way to a way of life that separated peoples rather than brought them together. They consider family values, how they arose, developed, were perverted or perfected to suit the family unit's needs, and the confusion that followed. Humanity on a Tightrope focuses on what families and family values are, and how they often create an "us versus them" mentality that is at the root of many of today's most crucial problems from terrorism, racism, and war to the failure of humanity to come to grips with potentially lethal global environmental problems. The book underlines a basic element for solving the human predicament — quickly spreading the domain of empathy. It takes a close look at how we can do that, building on the findings of both social and natural science and using tools ranging from brain imaging to the internet. It explains how civilization is unlikely to persist unless many more people learn to put themselves in the shoes of others to keep society balancing on the tightrope to sustainability - a tightrope suspended over the collapse of civilization.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The authors' hearts are in the right place with this earnest plea to all mankind to develop empathy and embrace the interdependency that connects us all. Ehrlich (The Population Bomb) and Ornstein (The Healing Brain) argue that human behavior is the biggest threat to our collective future and strongly suggest we create less "us" vs. "them" binaries. From environmental conservation to ending consumerism to the pervasive ignorance that feeds xenophobia, they approach their focus through the lenses of anthropology, neuropsychology, and history. The message is repetitive and, while the book promises to offer practical ideas, it often instead provides obvious claims: "There are a lot of big changes needed..." As with all ideas for peace and justice that rightfully stem from understanding that human beings want to be happy, the real challenges come after the preaching to the choir is done. Most readers will already agree with the authors' thesis, and it's hard to imagine that those who might benefit most from what the authors have to say-corporate America, NeoCons, the Taliban, for starters-will listen.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442206489
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/16/2010
  • Pages: 210
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Ehrlich is Bing Professor of Population Studies and President of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University. He is the author of The Population Bomb, one of the first books to bring environmental science to the general public. He has given thousands of public lectures in the past 40 years. Ehrlich is author and coauthor of over 1000 scientific papers, books, and articles in the popular press covering a range of topics from the effects of crowding on people and how consumption destroys our life-support systems to the origins of religion and the ethics of the environments. Of his some 40 books, Human Natures and The Dominant Animal have brought home the seriousness of the mismatch between human behavior and the chances of a global collapse of civilization. He has given thousands of public lectures and appearances on the electronic media. Robert Evan Ornstein is a psychologist, writer, former professor at Stanford University, and chairman of the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge (ISHK). He is the author of The Healing Brain, New World New Mind, and The Psychology of Consciousness. He has written or co-written more than twenty-five other books on the nature of the human mind and brain and their relationship to thought, health and individual and social consciousness, which have sold over ten million copies and been translated into 23 languages. Dr. Ornstein has taught at the University of California Medical Center and Stanford University, and he has lectured at more than 200 colleges and universities in the U.S. and overseas. He is the president and founder of the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge (ISHK), an educational nonprofit dedicated to bringing important discoveries concerning human nature to the general public. Among his many honors and awards is the UNESCO award for Best Contribution to Psychology and the American Psychological Foundation Media Award "for increasing the public understanding of psychology."
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