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Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse Hardcover – September 17, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0195393538 ISBN-10: 0195393538 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195393538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195393538
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #739,428 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Author and environmental studies professor Orr (The Nature of Design) presents an alarming look at climate change, predicting a best-case scenario (a sharp reduction in our carbon footprint) that belies the hopes of the green movement at large: "Climate change... is not so much a problem to be fixed, but rather a steadily worsening condition with which we must contend for a long time." Even this, however, depends on a political realignment sufficient to meet the severe challenges of the coming decades and centuries, including famine, drought and population displacement. Rather than a matter of reprioritizing, Orr contends that we must reshape our deepest held values; citing the case against abortion, he suggests that "the same kind of arguments apply to the right to life of future generations... as our present use of coal, oil, and natural gas will kill into the far future." Finding hope in "the connections that bind us to each other, to all life and to all life to come," Orr maintains a guarded optimism that never forgoes the possibility that "we are irreversibly en route to extinction"; for his expertise and crystal clear vision, Orr's disturbing message is hard to ignore.
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passionate and accessible Jeremy Spoon, Human Ecology: An Interdisciplinary Journal

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By sandyt on January 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Dr. David Orr is a university professor, trustee of a major environmental group called the Bioneers, and a participant in the Presidential Climate Action Project, which proposed global warming policies to the incoming Obama administration. In this book, he presents a case that our present form of society is doomed. Either we change it ourselves, or it will be extinguished by the stresses of climate change. Dr. Orr devotes his book to advocating the former, and to discussing how it might be done.

The scope of Dr Orr's thinking is quite impressive, to put it mildly. Readers of this book can expect numerous provocative references to writings in the fields of science, philosophy, law, government, religion, psychology, economics, ethics, history and political science. Dr. Orr discusses the ideas of a wide range of thinkers, from Deuteronomy to eighteenth-century English conservative Edmund Burke to the latest from the scientists working on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The list of sources at the back of the book is more than twenty pages long, and each is referenced somewhere in the body of the book. Dr. Orr locates the source of our troubles not with the greed of modern capitalists, but with the shortcomings of the Enlightenment philosophers and their predecessors; he singles out Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, and Galileo, who, despite their great accomplishments, taught us to man is separate from nature, that mind is separate from body, and that whatever cannot be counted doesn't count(123, 147).

Dr. Orr begins his case with the assertion that we should have started working on climate change thirty years ago. We did not, and now we have used up our margin of safety. We have to cut carbon emissions 90 percent by 2050, and there is no time to lose.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By R S Cobblestone VINE VOICE on January 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If there were only one book on climate change, would I pick this one?

No. But not because there is anything wrong with its content. I don't have any complaints about the material, except to say Orr hasn't written this book for Joe and Jane Public. Trust me. This is not a book for those who enjoy American Idol's preliminary screenings!

David Orr says climate change is coming. This is not news, since every (and I mean EVERY) professional scientific organization, from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to the American Geophysical Union (AGU), agrees that the climate is out of wack, and getting weirder. There are many popular books that say this as well.

Orr's book is more of a... complaint? Work on the issue faster and harder? Take it more seriously? Blame Bush and the industries in bed with the petro-companies?

His writing style, and this book, is not for the Outdoor Life crowd. It is more for the Atlantic Monthly crowd. And since it, in many places, is critical of that same crowd, what is Orr expecting? "The 'American way of life' is thought to be sacrosanct. In the face of a global emergency, brought on in no small way by the profligate American way of life, few are willing to say otherwise. So we are told to buy hybrid cars, but not asked to walk, bike, or make fewer trips, even at the end of the ear of cheap oil. we are asked to buy compact fluorescent light bulbs, but not to turn off our electronic stuff or avoid buying it in the first place. We are admonished to buy green, but seldom asked to buy less or repair what we already have or just do without.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Orr is one of my gurus, but the first time I read this book I was disappointed by its repetitiousness, vagueness, lack of sequential structure or sustained, fully supported and defended claims, and its preaching to the choir, who have already heard most of this many times. The central points were hardly controversial or new for us, but still unacceptable to the great majority of citizens who are looking more than ever at short term rescues or pleasures. For that reason the urgency and insistence of the tone seemed irritating and disrespectful of the audience. Compared to his last book, Design on the Edge, which contained a fascinating autobiographical narrative and a detailed account of the remarkable history of the building he was responsible for planning, designing and financing at Oberlin College, this book felt vague, uninspired, and sentimental. What does it mean after all to insist that what we should do is "deepen our humanity." (202)

I also found it sadly dated. Though filled with topical references to the impending Obama adminstration, the events of the fifteen months since his inauguration made many of the proposals about transforming governance and launching a revolution in Washington seem painfully overoptimistic. Nevertheless I decided to give it another try, either to be able to articulate specifically what I found wrong with the book or to give it a more sympathetic and engaged reading.

First, I confirmed what I suspected about the book's process of composition. Most of the material here was previously published in the form of essays that Orr writes for the journal Conservation Biology and others. Many of these can be found at the website, [...].
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