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State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1610914499
ISBN-10: 161091449X
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Editorial Reviews


"State of the World 2013 is a powerful collection of articles, and the vision behind it is impressive. Here is a book that gets beyond 'sustainababble' and asks the tough, essential questions. It should make readers more determined than ever to do their part in avoiding planet-wide disaster—and better informed about how to do that."
(Peter Singer Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University, and author of Animal Liberation)

"This edition forges a new path for the [State of the World] series, and for environmental thinking in general…. A pivotal book that marks a defining moment for our species."
(Richard Heinberg Senior Fellow Post Carbon Institute; author of The End of Growth and The Party's Over)

"State of the World 2013 cuts through the rhetoric surrounding sustainability, providing a broad and realistic look at how close we are to achieving it and outlining practices and policies that can steer us in the right direction…. A must read for those seeking authentic sustainability."
(Hunter Lovins President of Natural Capital Solutions and author of Climate Capitalism)

"This is a book of hope for a world in profound crisis. It gives honest assessments of the enormous challenges we face, and points us toward institutional and cultural changes that are proportional to our dire situation. State of the World 2013 reaffirms that we are not helpless, but that we have real choices, and that transformation is both possible and desirable."
(Reverend Peter S. Sawtell Executive Director, Eco-Justice Ministries)

"State of the World 2013 cuts through 'sustainababble' with crisp coverage that puts the news of the year in context and provides an expert survey of today's and tomorrow's big issues. It's a perennial resource for everyone concerned about our common future."
(Karen Christensen publisher of Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability)

"Every elected official in the world needs to read this book. Mass denial is no longer an option. An 'all hands on deck' approach to transforming our culture and economy is the only path to a safe, resilient future. This book is the blueprint for that safe path forward."
(Betsy Taylor President, Breakthrough Strategies & Solutions and Founder, Center for a New American Dream)

"...there is definitely something in this book for everyone. Easy to read, and understand..."

"The last section's suggestions for preparing for global environmental disaster will drive home the importance of adopting sustainability measures immediately. The book features a wealth of b&w photos and summary tables throughout, including a photo-illustrated one-year timeline."
(Reference & Research Book News)

"This important book is masterfully written by 52 collaborators with exhaustive expert knowledge of a wide sweep of disciplines. The contributions are knit together with fine editorial control... This book should be required reading for every incoming class of college students and a selection for community reading groups everywhere."

"I am a big fan of the State of the World series and this is my favourite volume so far....it covers topics of crucial importance today...a comprehensive reference for teachers, researchers, consultants and policy and planning specialists whose work touches on environmental sustainability—and a great text for students whose studies cover that area."
(Australasian Journal of Environmental Management)

"On the strength of its comprehensive reach and insights, State of the World 2013 should be of considerable interest to both newer and older audiences."
(Anthem EnviroExperts Review)

"Its global focus is a strength in drawing out the trends and interrelationships among worldwide environmental events and their impact on all the systems that human populations depend on."
(Against the Current)

"State of the World 2013 assembles the wisdom and clarity of some of the Earth's finest thinkers, visionaries, and activists into a dazzling array of topics that merge to offer a compellingly lucid and accessible vision of where we are—and what is the wisest and healthiest course for the future."
(Nina Simons co-founder, Bioneers)

About the Author

Founded in 1974 by farmer and economist Lester Brown, Worldwatch was the first independent research institute devoted to the analysis of global environmental concerns. Worldwatch quickly became recognized by opinion leaders around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. Now under the leadership of population expert and author Robert Engelman, Worldwatch develops innovative solutions to intractable problems, emphasizing a blend of government leadership, private sector enterprise, and citizen action that can make a sustainable future a reality.

Product Details

  • Series: State of the World
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press; 1 edition (April 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161091449X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1610914499
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #285,088 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
There are a couple of ways that the title of this collection of 34 articles misses the mark. First, most articles focus less on the "state of the world" as it is in 2013, than about how it might be in the future. And (spoiler alert) the overwhelming majority of articles answer the title question in the affirmative. Unfortunately, I'm not sure a reader will wind up with a better idea of what "sustainability" is after reading this book than she or he had beforehand; at least, I didn't.

Nonetheless, even though I've been researching and writing in a this general field for a while myself, there were maybe 10 or so articles I found that made very good points new to me, or made their points unusually well. Most of these articles had a narrower focus than talking about how to change the whole world at once. Roughly an equal number of chapters had me madly scribbling critical comments in the margins. The remaining, slightly biggest chunk were at least pretty good overall. My star score reflects this average. (DISCLOSURE: Before you read further I should mention that the publisher contacted me and offered to send me a copy of the book if I would agree to write an honest review. Based on my impression of other books from this publisher, I accepted. This is my first invited review out of more than 200 reviews I've posted on Amazon to date. Should there be a recurrence, I will highlight the fact again.)

While I'll have more specific remarks below about the contents of some of the chapters, the absence of some important topics was also notable. First, none of the chapters engaged seriously with *finance.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Worldwatch Institute has been writing the very best environmental analyses and global projections for over 30 years. 'Sustainability' is the current ecological catchword, thrown everywhere with great abandon and little precision. Each themed annual volume in this 'State of the World' series is written by a team of disciplinary experts supported by young interns fresh from the world's best universities. Copies of these reports are presented annually to legislators around the world.

The planetary perspective is evident in the 50 pages of current references following the text. Every major environmental issue is examined in detail as it relates to the growing demands of 7+ billion inhabitants. Millions more become middle class consumers every week. What can we anticipate in the next decade or so with regard to agriculture, energy, forests, fisheries, pollution, cities, rate of species extinctions, indigenous peoples, climate change, and cultural resilience?
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Format: Paperback
UPDATE 20 April 2013: I am struggling to get through this book. Small print, dense pages, 34 chapters. Further impressions:

Positive: this is an extraordinary cast of characters and a superb "architecture" for addessing the core issue of sustainability.

Negative: the endeavor lacks a whole systems (holistic) analytic model and even though Herman Daly is represented, "true cost" is not a concept ably brought forth here.

On balance, so far, this is absolutely a 5 star book, but it needs a companion "executive" version, much much shorter, with more pictures, and the three colors average people can understand (red, yellow,m green). It needs a scorecard approach that can be very specific about what policies we need to adopt across each domain (agriculture to water), right now all that is buried in the fine print and too time consuming to dig out.

- - - - - - -

This is a preliminary review. I got this book today in Washington DC and at first glance consider it quite extraordinary. Although the Worldwatch Institute (not to be confused with its founder Lester Brown who left them in 2001 to establish a separate Earth Policy Institute) is in my view one of the most prolific and consistent publisher in the field of whole systems sustainability studies, this book does not quite make the leap to six stars (my top ten percent) because it lacks a comprehensive architecture and a related cost picture for "the whole enchilada." This is a MAGNIFICENT work with 34 chapters by different individuals, each clearly a masterpiece within its domain.
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Format: Paperback

"This year's 'State of the World' aims to expand and deepen discussion of the overused and misunderstood adjective `sustainable,' which in recent years has morphed from its original meaning into something like `a little better for the environment than the alternative.' Simply doing `better' environmentally will not stop the unravelling of ecological relationships we depend on for food and health. Improving our act will not stabilize the atmosphere. It will not slow the falling of aquifers or the rising of oceans. Nor will it return Arctic ice, among Earth's most visible natural features from space, to its pre-industrial extent."

The above comes from the first essay or chapter of this very interesting book by The Worldwatch Institute. This Institute is an environmental research organization based in Washington, D.C. It helps to inform policymakers and the public about the complex links between the world economy and its environmental support systems.

The book itself is comprised of 34 essays by just over 50 authors. (Some essays have more than one author.) It has 30 text boxes (that is, information boxes that are set apart form the main narrative of a particular essay), almost 15 tables, and almost 30 black and white figures . There are also black and white photographs throughout.

The authors are quite diverse in what they do and the majority of them have more than one occupation. The greatest percentage of authors by far are professors, followed by directors, fellows, founders, researchers, presidents, and authors & writers. Then there is a teacher, lecturer, administrator, associate, accredited professional, account executive, college senior, astronomer, anthropologist, and consultant.
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