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Owners’ manual for planet Earth

Patrick O’Neill, Portland Oregonian
Editor Alex Steffen compiled solutions and resources for getting through the 21st century
It’s a huge book — almost 600 pages — but, as the publisher points out in an “environmental benefits statement,” the paper is made completely from recycled waste, manufactured with renewable biogas energy. In the process, 3,846 fully-grown trees are saved as well as 360,000 pounds of greenhouse gases.

That information is not incidental. The book, “WorldChanging: A User’s Guide to the 21st Century,” (Harry N. Abrams Inc., New York, 2006, $37.50, 596 p.) is a compilation of thousands of proposed solutions for saving the planet from global warming, resource depletion, the destruction of wildlife habitat and world poverty.

With a foreword by former vice-president and environmental activist Al Gore, the tome draws from 64 writers, activists and scientists to take on the problems posed by unfettered buying (in a chapter called “Stuff”), housing the world’s growing population and the sprawl of cities, among others.

The book is designed to be skimmed, says editor Alex Steffen, 38, Seattle author, futurist, and environmental advocate.

A skimming reader finds that it’s smart to go in with a group of friends to buy household supplies from a big-box discount store. Roofs should be white to reflect heat, not black, as most city roofs are. Coconuts are natural incubators for a strain of bacterium that kills mosquito larvae and could be used as a replacement for expensive imported larvicides in developing countries.

Steffen says the solutions to global warming don’t necessarily have to involve sacrifice and suffering.
(1 Nov 2006)
The WorldChanging team asks us to buy our copies today (November 1): Help Us Hack the Publishing System!.

The End of “Business As Usual”
David Korten is looking both ways at the crossroads of history

Charles Shaw, Whole Life Times
David Korten doesn’t give speeches. He calls the presentations he’s been conducting across the country “Earth Community dialogues.” And although he’s ostensibly giving them to publicize his seminal new work, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community (Berrett-Koehler Publishing), Korten views these gatherings as community collaborations. It’s genuine modesty from the man whose book has been called both “the exact right book for the political moment” and “a blueprint for a spiritual and social revolution.”

…“We are at a point in time in the human experience where we will soon be facing very deep and very rapid changes,” Korten intones. “It is time to begin making some very deep choices both individually and collectively.” Out of this pivotal moment will emerge one of two eventualities: The Great Turning or the Great Unraveling.

In the Great Turning, Korten explains, humanity recognizes its overshoot and begins to turn back from the 5,000-year-old values of “Empire”-exploitation, subjugation and deprivation, to those of “Earth Community”-a life-centered, egalitarian, sustainable way of ordering society based on democratic principles of partnership. In the Great Unraveling, society rapidly disintegrates into a fight to the death for rapidly dwindling resources.

Will we interpret this crossroads as the terminal crisis of the species or an epic opportunity to create the world we want? Korten believes our decision will depend on the stories by which we make sense of what is happening, and begin to recognize the choices that are ours to make. But the central message is that “business as usual” is over.

A “perfect economic storm” is looming, he warns, a consequence of the convergence of Peak Oil, climate change and a collapsing US dollar. Korten’s vast experience as an economist for third world development has allowed him a powerfully prescient vision. Growing awareness of the instability of the American (and thus the world) economy has caused no small measure of discomfort to activists and analysts alike. But what differentiates Korten from a run-of-the-mill apocalyptico is that he’s a true believer in “the potential of human-creativity and community” to reshape the world along just and sustainable lines.
(Nov 2006 issue)
Interview at Global Public Media.

The Fall and Rise of the Bicycle
Mark Stephen, Radio 4 – BBC
Mark Stephen discovers the importance of the bicycle as a global barometer of social, economic and environmental change.

China: Rejecting the Bicycle (31 July 2006)

In China, the bicycle has long been the transport of choice, but economic growth has encouraged an explosive growth of cars. In 2006 alone, China is expecting to put a further 6 million cars on the road. Taking an intimate journey through Beijing, Mark meets individuals whose lives have been inextricably tied to the bicycle for generations, and discovers that the bicycle is now at the very heart of a new environmental threat.

Europe: The Once and Future King of the Road (24 July 2006)
Over 200 years after its invention, it could be that the humble bike will once again be king of the road in the developed world. Alongside an increasing number of commuters, Mark Stephen braves the cycle lanes of London.

He then travels to Denmark to discover whether a cycling revolution in the UK could ever match the number of cyclists who take to the streets of bicycle-friendly European cities like Copenhagen.

Africa, the Power of Two Wheels (17 July 2006)
Namibia’s scattered population faces a huge struggle against poverty and AIDS. A bicycle can provide great freedom – access to healthcare, education and work – that sheer distance often renders impossible. Taking a trip across this vast country, Mark sees for himself the impact that owning a bicycle can have on the lives of Africa’s rural poor
(July 2006)
From Odograph via Big Gav.