I strongly recommend this new book by our Patron Jonathon Porritt, ‘The World We Made’. It’s a retrospective review from 2050 of the first half of our century; and it’s optimistic, presenting a challenge to the habitual gloom of many of us. The basic scenario is that things go downhill so far and fast from now on that, following the Great Famine of 2025, Governments, business and individuals are forced by riots and the ‘Enough!’ movement into the radical reforms needed to achieve a sustainable society. It’s strong on population, of course; but it is also a wide ranging anthology of policy changes that environmentalists have long proposed, several of them new to me.
They include ending tax havens and perverse subsidies, an international financial transactions tax and carbon tax, the rise of cooperatives and ‘Benefit Corporations’ replacing today’s transnationals, a ‘cap and prosper’ scheme for non -renewables, giving full value to natural ecosystem services, so reforesting many upland areas and ‘de-engineering the Mississippi’, replacing GDP with Bhutan-style Gross National Happiness, quality of life rather than quantity of stuff, reuse rather than recycling, eating less meat, etc. The great religions help, adopting a common set of values based on “Enough, live simply, respect the Earth”; though sardonically, Pope Francis’ attempt to reverse ‘Humanae Vitae’ is defeated by Vatican obstruction.
The book is also a compendium of emerging technologies that might prove transformative, though the problems of scale, and their energy implications, are glossed over. Jonathon comes down against nuclear power, and in favour of solar, bio-fuels, and selective GM, among many others. But above all, it is immensely readable, with very short and copiously illustrated chapters on each issue, and the chatty style of its notional author, an idealistic teacher and a former ‘Earth Corps’ volunteer born in 2000. It’s an excellent antidote to the temptation just to shout “We’re all doomed!”
Roger Martin, Chair, Population Matters