This is the story of power—humanity’s power over nature and the power of some people over others.
How has Homo sapiens—one species among millions—become powerful enough to threaten a mass extinction and disrupt the Earth’s climate? Why have we developed so many ways of oppressing one another? Can we change our relationship with power to avert ecological catastrophe, reduce social inequality, and stave off collapse?
These questions—and their answers—will determine our fate.
Weaving together findings from a vast range of disciplines, Power traces how four key elements developed to give humans extraordinary power: tool-making ability, language, social complexity, and the ability to harness energy sources—most significantly, fossil fuels. It asks whether we have, at this point, overpowered natural and social systems, and if we have, what we can do about it.
Most crucially, the book explores how self-limitation of power is rooted in evolution and human history, but our memory of it has been buried under a century of fossil-fuel driven economic growth. Now, at this vital moment, we must rapidly re-learn the lessons of power if humanity is to have a thriving future.
Essential reading for everyone who calls planet Earth home.
Published September 2021 by New Society Publishers
Richard Heinberg is the author of thirteen books including The Party’s Over, Powerdown, Peak Everything, and The End of Growth. He is Senior Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute and internationally respected communicator on the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels.