The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization

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A.A. Knopf Canada, 2006 - Environmental policy - 429 pages
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From the author of the #1 bestselling and Governor General's Literary Award-winning The Ingenuity Gap - an essential addition to the bookshelf of every thinking person with a stake in our world and our civilization.
This is a groundbreaking, essential book for our times. Thomas Homer-Dixon brings to bear his formidable understanding of the urgent problems that confront our world to clarify their scope and deep causes. The Upside of Down provides a vivid picture of the immense stresses that are simultaneously converging on our societies and threatening a breakdown that would profoundly shake civilization. It shows, too, how we can choose a better route into the future.
With the immediacy that characterized his award-winning international bestseller, The Ingenuity Gap, Homer-Dixon takes us on a remarkable journey - from the fall of the Roman empire to the devastation of the 9/11 attacks in New York, from Toronto in the 2003 blackout to the ancient temples of Lebanon and the wildfires of California. Incorporating the newest findings from an astonishing array of disciplines, he argues that the great stresses our world is experiencing - global warming, energy scarcity, population imbalances, and widening gaps between rich and poor - can't be looked at independently. As these stresses combine and converge, the risk of breakdown rises. The first signs are appearing in the wastelands of the Arctic, the mud-clogged streets of Gonaives, Haiti, and the volatile regions of the Middle East and Asia. But while the consequences of denial in our more perilous world are dire, Homer-Dixon makes clear that we can use our emerging understanding of the complex systems in which we live to avoid catastrophic collapse in a way the Roman empire could not.
This vitally important new book shows how, in the face of breakdown, we can still provide for the renewal of our global civilization. We are creating the conditions for catastrophe, but by understanding the underlying principles that make human and natural systems resilient - and by working together to put those principles into effect - we can still limit the severity of collapse and foster regeneration, innovation, and renewal.

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User Review  - rafe - LibraryThing

For me this is an important book at an important time. The author uses the analogy of the Roman empire's collapse to show the warning signs facing global civilisation by explaining how, like an ... Read full review

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User Review  - JBreedlove - LibraryThing

The author is an expert on energy resources and its relationship to society. He writes about complex systems and their eventual failure being a time of danger and renewal. He compares todays global ... Read full review


prologue Firestorm
one Tectonic Stresses
two A Keystone in Time

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About the author (2006)

Thomas Homer-Dixon, or "Tad" as he is known to his friends and colleagues, is Director of the Center for the Study of Peace and Conflict at the University of Toronto, and Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. He was born in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1956 and grew up in a rural area outside the city. After studying for two years at the University of Victoria in the late-1970s, he moved to Ottawa, where in 1980 he received his B.A. in Political Science from Carleton University. He then founded a national student organization that encouraged debate on the ethical implications of scientific research, and he traveled widely overseas.
In 1983, he began graduate work in Political Science at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he studied international relations, defense and arms control policy, and conflict theory. He also read widely in social psychology, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, philosophy of mind and language, and environmental science. After completing his Ph.D. in 1989, he moved to the University of Toronto and, in the subsequent eight years, led several international research projects examining the links between environmental stress and violence in developing countries. In recent years, his research has focused on how societies adapt to complex economic, ecological, and technological change.
Besides The Ingenuity Gap, his books include Environment, Scarcity, and Violence (Princeton University Press, 1999) and, coedited with Jessica Blitt, Ecoviolence: Links among Environment, Population, and Security (Rowman & Littlefield, 1998). Dr. Homer-Dixon has been invited to speak about his research at Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Cornell Universities, UC Berkeley, MIT, West Point, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He twice briefed Al Gore during his tenure as Vice President of the United States.

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