ISBN 978-0-9709500-6-2. “The Post Carbon Reader – Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises” edited by Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch. Published in 2010 by Watershed Media and the Post Carbon Institute. A large book at 523 pages including Foreword, Preface, Acknowledgements, sixteen parts with a total of 34 chapters, Notes and Index. Some 42 authors contributed to this work most of whom are “Fellows of the Post Carbon Institute”. With the one exception (of our very own Rob Hopkins) this is dominated by North American voices. As with all such works – no matter how righteous and admirable it is, it only goes to show just how far behind Europe and the rest of the World, North America is. They may possess some of the best minds and advanced thinking but that thinking appears to exist in their civic society which sits entirely outside the US Government and Federal system. If just a small ounce of all this commonsense found its way into Congress then maybe the US could one day lead the world in terms of action as well as talking around the problem. The sixteen sections of this work are: “Foundation Concepts”, Climate, Water, Biodiversity, Food, Population, Culture and Behaviour, Energy, Economy, “Cities, Towns and Suburbs”, Transportation, Waste, Health, Education and Building Resilience. Authors include Richard Heinberg, Richard Douthwaite, Bill McKibben, Chris Martenson and Rob Hopkins.
So what you are getting are 34 mini-essays giving you the state-of-the-art in post-carbon thinking. Some of us would pretty much buy anything written by Heinberg – everything else is a bonus. There is very good coverage of the topic here and this presents a very broad horizon on the topic. The section on Waste was eye-opening. On the down side we do get some Climate Change scaremongering from the likes of Bill McKibben that seems wholly out of place in a book devoted to solutions rather than navel gazing. This aside, this is a solid piece of work although it suffers badly from its pure US-orientation. At times it is so parochial (check out the section on education) that the work is rendered utterly meaningless outside the USA. However this work is so vast that the generic areas of philosophy can be plundered at will to supply a feast of data for a thousand blogs. The level of intellect on display is top notch. A few high points include the Tom Whipple essay on “Peak Oil and the Great Recession” and Michael Shuman’s work on “The Competitiveness of Local Living Economies”. If only Shuman’s work could be translated into a meaningful work based upon the UK’s economy (based as it is entirely upon statistics). It isn’t easy to critique a work as vast and diverse as this so this will be a short review. Everybody will find something to enjoy in the Post Carbon Reader. If only we could get book like this more widely read. Excellent.