Ancient Futures: Lessons from Ladakh for a Globalizing World

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Sierra Club Books, 2009 - Social Science - 226 pages
22 Reviews
A gripping portrait of the western Himalayan land sometimes known as "Little Tibet,” Ancient Futures opens with author Helena Norberg-Hodge’s first visit in 1975 to idyllic, preindustrial Ladakh. She then tracks the profound changes that occurred as the region was opened to foreign tourists and Western goods and technologies, and offers a firsthand account of how relentless pressure for economic growth precipitated generational and religious conflict, unemployment, inflation, and environmental damage, threatening to unravel Ladakh’s traditional way of life.

Energized by the fate of a people who had captured her heart, Norberg-Hodge helped establish the Ladakh Project (later renamed the International Society for Ecology and Culture) to seek sustainable solutions that preserve cultural integrity and environmental health while addressing the hunger for modernization. Since then, other Ladakh-based projects have proliferated, supporting renewable energy systems, local agricultural methods, and the spiritual foundations of Ladakhi culture.

The author’s new afterword brings readers up-to-date on the work of these projects and on her own career over several decades as she traveled widely, observing similar impacts on other cultures. She challenges us to rethink our concepts of "development” and "progress,” stressing above all the need to carry ancient wisdom into our future.

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Review: Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh

User Review  - Jonna Higgins-Freese - Goodreads

Perhaps no book, especially one as classic and oft-cited as this one, can live up to its reputation. I enjoyed, to some extent, the ethnographic accounts, yet I couldn't help feeling that all was ... Read full review

Review: Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh

User Review  - Sharon - Goodreads

A treasure of a book. Such a clear explanation of true human nature and the effects of industrialization. Well written and hopeful. Read full review

About the author (2009)

Born in 1946, Paul Gilk grew up on a small homestead farm in northern Wisconsin. From work horses, threshing crews and silo-filling rings, huge gardens, quilting bees and one-room schools, township demographics changed in twenty-five years from thirty farms to three. Returning to northern Wisconsin from St. Louis in 1979, Gilk built a cottage in the woods of what had been part of the family farm. Several years of intensive study followed. The question that preoccupied him was Why are small farms dying? In the early 1990s, he reconstructed a nineteenth-century log house and, in 1995, married Suzanna Juon. He has made a living by farm work, woods work, carpentry, writing, and folk music.

Peter Matthiessen was born in Manhattan, New York on May 22, 1927. He served in the Navy at Pearl Harbor. He graduated with a degree in English from Yale University in 1950. It was around this time that he was recruited by the CIA and traveled to Paris, where he became acquainted with several young expatriate American writers. In the postwar years the CIA covertly financed magazines and cultural programs to counter the spread of Communism. While in Paris, he helped found The Paris Review in 1953. After returning to the United States, he worked as a commercial fisherman and the captain of a charter fishing boat. His first novel, Race Rock, was published in 1954. His other fiction works include Partisans, Raditzer, Far Tortuga, and In Paradise. His novel, Shadow Country, won a National Book Award. His novel, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, was made into a movie. He started writing nonfiction after divorcing his first wife. An assignment for Sports Illustrated to report on American endangered species led to the book Wildlife in America, which was published in 1959. His travels took him to Asia, Australia, South America, Africa, New Guinea, the Florida swamps, and beneath the ocean. These travels led to articles in The New Yorker as well as numerous nonfiction books including The Cloud Forest: A Chronicle of the South American Wilderness, Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons of Stone Age New Guinea, Blue Meridian: The Search for the Great White Shark, The Tree Where Man Was Born, and Men's Lives. The Snow Leopard won the 1979 National Book Award for nonfiction. He died from leukemia on April 5, 2014 at the age of 86.

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