The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: Waking up to Personal and Global Transformation

The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: Waking up to Personal and Global Transformation

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by Thom Hartmann

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A call to consciousness combining spirituality and ecology that offers hope for the future.

As the world's population explodes, cultures and species are wiped out, and we have now reached the halfway point of our supplies of oil, humans the world over are confronting difficult choices about how to create a future that works.
Thom Hartmann proposes that the…  See more details below


A call to consciousness combining spirituality and ecology that offers hope for the future.

As the world's population explodes, cultures and species are wiped out, and we have now reached the halfway point of our supplies of oil, humans the world over are confronting difficult choices about how to create a future that works.
Thom Hartmann proposes that the only lasting solution to the crises we face is to re-learn the lessons our ancient ancestors knew — those which allowed them to live sustainably for hundreds of thousands of years — but which we've forgotten.

Hartmann shows how to find this new yet ancient way of seeing the world and the life on and in it, allowing us to touch that place where the survival of humanity may be found.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a well-intentioned but soggy New Age manifesto, Hartmann (The Prophet's Way) calls for a spiritual ecology to stave off impending ecological collapse. (The title refers not only to waning or forgotten ancient wisdom but also to dwindling fossil-fuel supplies.) In an informal, disjointed style, Hartmann surveys the crises we face: the decimation of the rain forests, mass extinctions of plant and animal species, global warming exacerbated by industrial emissions, famines and the threat of new epidemics. But his sweeping view of history veers into retrograde romantic fantasy. In his simplistic framework, "younger" cultures" (i.e., Sumer, classical Greece and Rome, the modern West) are hierarchical, claim resources through trade and conquest, wage genocidal warfare and foster domination and control over both nature and other peoples. "Older" cultures (i.e., such tribal peoples as Native Americans, the Ik of Uganda or the Kayapo of Brazil), he maintains, are sustainable, more egalitarian, live in intimate connection with the natural world and grant women and men roughly equal status. To prevent planetary doom, he argues, we should adopt some of the older cultures' lessons, such as practicing small acts of goodness, meditating or joining a small "tribal" community sharing land ownership and a common purpose. Bereft of original ideas, this tract (originally self-published in 1998 under the Mythical Books imprint) preaches to the converted and lacks either the political specifics or the spiritual focus its weighty scope demands. Author tour. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Second-rate eco-spirituality from the well-known environmentalist guru Hartmann (The Prophet's Way; Beyond ADD; etc.). Hartmann's book succeeds best in part one, when he shows how we are destroying our planet through deforestation, extinction, global warming, future famine, oil scarcity, proliferating wars, increased drug use, etc. But the book heads downhill from there. Part two is an oversimplified presentation of "Older" (good) and "Younger" (very bad) cultures: those in Younger cultures, like ourselves, tend to justify their dominance of creation, while Older hunter-gatherer types were just really grateful to be here. Older cultures were "cooperators, not dominators," who knew nothing of class differences or harming the Earth, taking only what they needed. (Why can't we all just be like those nice earthy folks, the Druids?) Part three proposes—you guessed it—that we heed our ancestors' lessons of eco-spirituality and form small "tribes" in which people can really, like, connect with one another. The environment will be hunky-dory again once we reempower women, "touch the sacred," tell one another "new stories" about the Earth, and respect others. We should also stop watching so darned much TV. Very disappointing, naive solutions to the urgent environmental problems so well outlined in part one. (Author tour)

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Product Details

Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Older Edition
Product dimensions:
5.17(w) x 8.02(h) x 0.74(d)

Read an Excerpt

We're Running Out
of Ancient Sunlight
Where our energy came from,
how we're "living beyond our means,"
and what will happen to our
children when we run out
It all starts with sunlight.

Sunlight pours energy on the earth, and the energy gets converted from one form to another, in an endless cycle of life, death, and renewal. Some of the sunlight got stored underground, which has provided us with a tremendous "savings account" of energy on which we can draw. Our civilization has developed a vast thirst for this energy, as we've built billions and billions of machines large and small that all depend on fuel and electricity.
But our savings are running low, which will most likely make for some very hard times.

In Part I of The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight we'll lay out the scope of the situation as a foundation for planning our response. Topics in Part I include:
The history of sunlight in the human story
How can things look okay yet be so bad?

The importance of trees—their three vital roles in a renewable environment, and some alarming statistics on what's happening as we cut them down
The accelerating rate of species extinctions as we alter the world and its climate

Let's start at the beginning, with the fuel source that gave life to this planet millions of years ago: Sunlight
We're Made
Out of Sunlight
The Sun, the hearth of affection and life, pours burning love on the delighted earth.
—Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)

In a very real sense, we're all made out of sunlight.

Sunlight radiating heat, visible light, and ultraviolet light is the source of virtually all life on Earth. Everything yousee alive around you is there because a plant somewhere was able to capture sunlight and store it.

All animals live from these plants, whether directly (as with herbivores) or indirectly (as with carnivores, which eat the herbivores). This is true of mammals, insects, birds, amphibians, reptiles, bacteria...everything living. Every life form on the surface of this planet is here because a plant was able to gather sunlight and store it, and something else was able to eat that plant and take that sunlight-energy into power its body.*
In this way, the abundance or lack of abundance of our human food supply was, until the past few hundred years, largely determined by how much sunlight hit the ground. And for all non-human life forms on the planet, this is still the case—you can see that many of the areas around the equator that are bathed in sunlight are filled with plant and animal life, whereas in the relatively sun-starved polar regions there are far fewer living creatures and less diversity among them.

The plant kingdom's method of sunlight storage is quite straightforward. Our atmosphere has billions of tons of carbon in it, most in the form of the gas carbon dioxide, or CO2. Plants "inhale" this CO2, and use the energy of sunlight to drive a chemical reaction in their leaves called photosynthesis, which breaks the two atoms of oxygen free from the carbon, producing free carbon (C) and oxygen (O2). The carbon is then used by the plant to manufacture carbohydrates like cellulose and virtually all other plant matter—roots, stems, leaves, fruits, and nuts—and the oxygen is "exhaled" as a waste gas by the plant.

Many people I've met believe that plants are made up of soil—that the tree outside your house, for example, is mostly made from the soil in which it grew. That's a common mistake, however—that tree is mostly made up of one of the gasses in our air (carbon dioxide) and water (hydrogen and oxygen). Trees are solidified air and sunlight!

Plant leaves capture sunlight and use that energy to extract carbon as carbon dioxide from the air, combine it with oxygen and hydrogen from water, to form sugars and other complex carbohydrates (carbohydrates are also made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen) such as the cellulose which makes up most of the roots, leaves, and trunk.

When you burn wood, the "sunlight energy" is released in the form of light and heat (from the fire). Most of the carbon in the wood reverses the photosynthesis.

The small pile of ash you're left with is all the miner als the huge tree had taken from the soil. Everything else was gas from the air: carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.

Animals, including humans, cannot create tissues directly from sunlight, water, and air, as plants can. Thus the human population of the planet from the beginning of our history was limited by the amount of readily available plant food (and animals-that-eat-plants food). Because of this, from the dawn of humanity (estimated at 200,000 years ago) until about 40,000 years ago, the entire world probably never held more than about five million human inhabitants. That's fewer people worldwide than Detroit has today.

I suspect the reason for this low global census is that people in that time ate only wild-growing food. If sunlight fell on 100 acres of wildlands producing enough food to feed ten people—through edible fruits, vegetables, seeds, and wild animals which ate the plants—then the population density of that forest would stabilize at that level. Studies of all kinds of animal populations show that mammals—including humans—become less fertile, and death rates increase when there is not enough food to sustain a local population. This is nature's population control system for every animal species: population is limited to what the local plant/food supply can feed.

Similarly, people's clothing and shelter back then were made out of plants and animal skins which themselves came to life because of "current sunlight," the sunlight which fell on the ground over the few years of their lives. We used the skins of animals and trees (things that had consumed sunlight in recent years) to construct clothing and housing. All these are made from relatively current sunlight.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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What People are saying about this

Barbara Marx Hubbard
Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight confronted me with the radical truth of our predicament and with grace and brilliance gently pointed a way toward our salvation as a species, and our evolution as humanity. It is essential reading for the 21st century.
— (Barbara Marx Hubbard, author, Conscious Evolution)
Neale Donald Walsch
One of the most important books you will ever read.
— (Neale Donald Walsch, author of Conversations with God)
Carol Adrienne
Before I even finished Thom Hartmann's book, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, I was recommending it in all my workshops and to all my friends. Thom has a unique overview that helps lighten the shadow that technology has cast over our lives. His message that change is inevitable is powerful, but I came away believing that this is an opportunity, not a disaster.
— (Carol Adrienne, author of The Purpose of Your Life and co-author with James Redfield of The Celestine Prophecy: An Experiential Guide)
Jean Houston
Thom Hartman writes one of the most rousing, raging and right thinking works of our time. As a visionary Speaker for the Earth, he reveals what we have done to our planet and how we can make true and deep amends. He offers potent and practical ways to achieve a new ecology of spirit and matter, mind and nature. He gives us a new story to illumine life at the threshold of forever.
— (Jean Houston, author of A Mythic Life and A Passion for the Possible)
Thom Hartman

From the Author:

The Mythical Books version of Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight was written in 1996-97 for 1998 publication, so I was very pleased when Harmony Books picked it up for August 1999 publication and encouraged me to go through the book to update it. We finished the process in June, so it's about as up-to-date as we could be! There are also many things I've added to the text, reflecting new thinking, learning, and facts. And, we've many things I've added to the text, reflecting new thinking, learning, and facts. And, we've added a very comprehensive index. All in all, this is a vastly improved book over the original trade version. Enjoy!

Stephen Larsen
In The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight Thom Hartmann shows both how perilous, and how urgent is the world's current predicament, as we move into a new millennium. His awesome amassal of facts relating to the exhaustion of fossil fuel resources (the "ancient sunlight" of his title) could be deeply disturbing, if he did not bring his own light of spiritual optimism to the impasse. Hartmann names the problem fearlessly, and yet offers a deep affirmation of the human potential for facing such problems once named. This book should rest on the shelf next to Vice President Gore's Earth in the Balance. If you have been sleep to the Ecological crisis, this is a lucid and compelling wakeup call!
— (Stephen Larsen, Ph.D., author of The Shaman's Doorway, The Mythic Imagination, and with his wife Robin, A Fire in the Mind: The Life of Joseph Campbell)
Rob Kall
Hartmann is a blend of James Michener and Rachel Carson, telling a gripping story that starts before the beginning of human history and leads up to the present--but rather than being about Hawaii or Chesapeake or Afghanistan, as Michener covered, Thom covers the world's ecology and energy. This is the kind of book which starts movements with millions of people heartfully involved. It's a book every student--and, indeed, every citizen of the world, should read.
— (Rob Kall, President, FUTUREHEALTH)
Marianne Williamson
I think Thom Hartmann is one of those people who 'puts it all together' for us, explaining not only what has seriously gone wrong in the world, but even more importantly all that can still go right. He is an awakener of the highest order.

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The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: Waking up to Personal and Global Transformation 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was appalled at the critics' review of this remarkable work. I have found far too many times that writings such as this are arrogantly and briskly disregarded and even mocked as just one more intellectual's cry of 'the sky is falling!!' If truly committed to growth, development, and ascension as a world species (and I do mean all of us -- human, animal, plant) where else can we begin except with writings such as these? Until we stop viewing ourselves, our families, our communities, our races, etc. in isolation, we will continue to bash our collective head against the proverbial brick wall of the reality that we are ALL interrelated and interdependent. This book, and the efforts and passions contained within, help us to more fully understand this. For more, read the Conversations with God trilogy and other related works by Walsh. Read works by Stephen R. Covey, B. Marx, Margaret Wheatley, and the writings of Ghandi. I believe very deeply and with a profound sense of awareness that it is no coincidence these books are all saying at the most fundamental level the same thing. We have to embrace the questions found within this work and others like it, and in so doing can learn to live the answers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thom Hartmann has written a book that has opened my eyes to my part in the destruction of our planet. All I can say about the above ¿professional¿ reviewers is that they might be too afraid to see their part in the predicament we have put the earth in. I have not been the same since I read this book and I am glad of it. Thank you Thom for your dedication to helping us all wake up from the sleep we have been in for thousands of years.