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The Upside of down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilizationby Thomas Homer-Dixon
Synopses & Reviews
Environmental disasters. Terrorist wars. Energy scarcity. Economic failure. Is this the world's inevitable fate, a downward spiral that ultimately spells the collapse of societies? Perhaps, says acclaimed author Thomas Homer-Dixon - or perhaps these crises can actually lead to renewal for ourselves and planet earth.
The Upside of Down takes the reader on a mind-stretching tour of societies' management, or mismanagement, of disasters over time. From the demise of ancient Rome to contemporary climate change, this spellbinding book analyzes what happens when multiple crises compound to cause what the author calls "synchronous failure." But, crisis doesn't have to mean total global calamity. Through catagenesis, or creative, bold reform in the wake of breakdown, it is possible to reinvent our future.
Drawing on the worlds of archeology, poetry, politics, science, and economics, The Upside of Down is certain to provoke controversy and stir imaginations across the globe. The author's wide-ranging expertise makes his insights and proposals particularly acute, as people of all nations try to grapple with how we can survive tomorrow's inevitable shocks to our global system. There is no guarantee of success, but there are ways to begin thinking about a better world, and The Upside of Down is the ideal place to start thinking.
About the Author
Thomas Homer-Dixon is Director of the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. He is author of the acclaimed books The Ingenuity Gap (Knopf, 2001) and Environment, Scarcity, and Violence (Princeton University Press, 1999).
Table of Contents
Prologue : Firestorm : San Francisco, Thursday, April 19, 1906 ; Rome, Tuesday, May 13, 2003 ; The white wall — 1. Tectonic stresses : Multipliers ; Synchronous failure ; Beyond management ; From crash to creativity ; Thresholds ; The prospective mind — 2. A keystone in time : The thermodynamics of empire ; A stone's journey ; Colosseum calories ; Energy return on investment ; The exigencies of energy — 3. We are like running water : Demographic momentum ; No land is an island ; Growth's consequences ; Megacities — 4. So long, cheap slaves : From geopolitics to geoscarcity ; Oil's peak ; Where are the giants? ; "The world economy has no plan B" — 5. Earthquake : Negative synergy ; Overload ; Connectivity and speed ; A clausewitz of complexity ; Boundary jumping — 6. Flesh of the land : Stages of denial ; Beyond the horizon ; Squeezed in a vise ; The anthropocene ; Hollow societies — 7. Closing the windows : Kilimanjaro's retreat ; Concensus ; Confidence game ; Back casting ; Momentum and feedback ; Walking toward a cliff ; Frayed networks — 8. No equilibrium : Heading for the exits ; Income gap ; The dirty little secret of development economics ; Curious fixation ; Cultivating discontent ; The growth imperative ; Clouded hope — 9. Cycles within cycles : Licensing denial ; Why don't we face reality ; Diminishing returns ; Panarchy ; Overextending the growth phase — 10. Disintegration : Checkerboard landscape ; Energy subsidy ; Ruthless extraction ; Holland times ten ; Motivation, opportunity, and framing ; Power shift ; A shattered sphere — 11. Catagenesis : A watch list ; Moments of contingency ; Resilience ; Open source — 12. Baalbek: the last rock.
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