192 of 204 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2011
There are two books in one here. The first third is about the Great Disruption itself, that is, the logical and inescapable consequences of the endless craving for growth and use of the finite natural resources of planet Earth. That the globe can't sustain infinite economical and population growth, especially with the ramping consumerism in the last decades, is an obvious conclusion that hasn't escaped even the pillars of Economy, such as Adam Smith, Keynes and Stuart Mill. This idea hasn't been recognized as it should, as an absurdly important and urgent matter, simply because its consequences are just appaling: in order for humans to stop destroying the world, and living the terrible consequences of doing so (we are already suffering them), the economy that drives us will have to shrink in tremendous levels. Endless consumption will simply have to end.
This part of the book could easily discuss many further examples of the causes and consequences of this process. Instead, it goes at length just to convince you simply that "this is true and will happen". Sadly, it shies away from what all this really means, which is what scares people so much, barely touching the facts that this collapse of economic growth means exactly 1. the logical failure of capitalism; and 2. that millions of people *will die* in this process. And soon.
So, in order to still be attractive to a large audience, the rest of the book leaves this discussion behind and becomes some sort of eco-self-help for middle-class and rich Americans (maybe also Australians, since that's where Gilding comes from). It centers on practical ways the reader should adopt in order to live in a more equal world, less demanding of nature and of consumption goods. There are dozens of examples of people like smart and well-intentioned CEOs who realized that in order for their business to survive they'll have to turn to new carbonless business strategies. Of course, there's nothing wrong with this target audience, but the problem is global, and the awareness and response should also be global.
And this exposes the ultimate flaw of the author's argument. What I mean is, try instead to read the last two thirds of the book before the first part, and you'll see a big contradiction in terms. You then learn first that you'll have to shop less in order to be happier, vaguely "share" more (he means: "otherwise the mass of helpless poor will invade us, glad the military is working on that!") and support innovative, eco-friendly businesses. Great, so that's how we do our part! *But* the arguments in the first part of the book say very clearly: this just won't be enough, because the disruption is far greater and faster than all our little collaborative work will be able to catch.
I do understand why Guilding has changed the tone in the second part. It is important not to give up hope after we realize this big truth, neither in our daily routine today nor in the future. The author knows too well how people can be resistant to both being conscious about the problem and acting on it. What I think is that the answers the book provides are still the very tip of the iceberg of this issue. An iceberg that's melting fast, for we're running out of time.
94 of 102 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2011
I have followed the writings of Mr. Gilding for many years, after hearing him speak at the Sustainabile Enterprise Academy at York University. This was just about the time that his "Scream, Crash, Boom" essay was published on the web. If there was one book that I would recommend on the topic of seeking sustainability to encourage creation of sustainabile enterprise and creation of future abundance for as many species on the planet as possible, this is the book I would currently recommend. His assessments of the disruption in socio-economic and environmental systems are spot on, and as such, they can be used to produce future scenarios that are valuable for strategy planning in businesses and communities alike. If what he projects is true for the redefining of growth and commerical markets, it will produce radical change. However, after the last few year, it seems to me this is what we need to transform our global development operating systems.
I am currently using his concepts along with Dr. Stuart Hart's (Capitalism at the Crossroads) to engage a new generation of business students that must be the engine of change and deal with, "The Great Disruption". This is an excellent book to support learning and action, as it provides not only a forecast of the future, but ideas of how we must behave to succeed in the coming brave new world.
If everyone in Washington DC were to read this book and begin to behave in a way to address the challenges, but most importantly the opportunities that are created by the disruption, America could reinvent itself. Paul Gilding has provided a fine guidebook. Good work Mr. Gilding and Thank you. It is now up to us to quit fighting over the meaningless and move forward on the meaninful.
49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2011
The Great Disruption is about our rollercoaster response to climate change. It moves fast and it's a bit scary but people are still keen to get on this ride. This is Paul Gilding's first book that draws from his experience as entrepreneur, business consultant and Greenpeace activist.
The Great Disruption is an well argued and optimistic view of how people will respond to climate change. Gilding regards the Allies response to WW2 as a good indicator of how we can rapidly transform our culture and economies with a "can do" approach to a crisis. This provides a welcome counter-view from the disempowerment and despair of much climate commentary.
Gilding's view is not just a rose-colored view of this crisis. He argues there will be decades of disruptive events and economic shocks to overcome, including coal becoming uncompetitive. The book provides a compelling overview of the climate science. He ably argues that climate change is no longer just about the environment but it's now about the impacts on the economy.
Drawing upon seminal work such as Small is Beautiful and Limits to Growth the book also contends that we have reached the limits of economic growth and that sort of growth is no longer a valid objective. Alternative measures are needed. Gilding, quite rightly, points out that an equitable society is a happier society and that material possessions do not, on their own, create a sense of happiness.
The book then moves into solutions. It takes nearly half the book to get here and readers will need some resilience to get through this. The solutions however, are encouraging and are based a "One Degree War" plan. There is a menu of innovative businesses and technologies that will change our economies. Gilding suggests that voters and consumers will increasingly demand a better planet and better economy and so business and governments, acting in their own self- interest will respond.
The response will not be gradual but sudden and disruptive. There will lots of "creative destruction" in this response. Some of the promising business innovations that are flagged by Gilding include Ocado - the online supermarket and "carrotmobbing" - the consumer flash mob. (It's worth googling these!) The main unanswered concern in the argument put forward is about equity. Who will be the losers of these disruption(s)? Will the disruption increase poverty or can we respond in a way that brings equity back into our societies? This question is discussed but needs more attention. Maybe that is for his next book?
The Great Disruption provides a great roadmap to a better future. There are still some blind spots but after reading this I remain even more convinced that we will get there. Having known Paul's work through my time with Ecos it is good that he can now share his insight and compelling optimism with a much larger audience.
Jack Holden is a sustainability practitioner and consultant.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2011
Within the last few weeks I've read Mark Hertsgaard's book: Hot and Paul Gilding's book: The Great Disruption. I've been boning up on climate change mainly because of the backlash against it by the Republican Party.
Paul Gilding is a former Greenpeace International President turned business consultant and now professor. Essentially, his story is one of an activist who got tired of sleeping on people's couches---who found a way to make a living being a "green" consultant. He is a bit maligned in Radical Enviro circles because of his jump from Greenpeace to Du Pont. Enviros have revolving doors too.
Hertsgaard is a veteran journalist whose best book is on the Beatles. In "Hot" he takes the family angle: wondering what the world will be like for his young daughter in the year 2060?
The problem with climate change is that it is so nebulous that denial is easy. How can one get upset about sea level rise, when thus far, it has only been 2 to 3 millimeters a year? So far, we haven't paid the price of a warming climate in North America, hence, it isn't a problem. People like Gilding, Hertsgaard and McKibben are seen as Chicken Little.
Gilding's answer is that the world will move on the issue when the first major catastrophe happens. This will be more than likely an extended drought in America's bread basket. He predicts this will happen in the next ten years. He expects that a billion people will die. Cheerful.
As I write this, the Mississippi is in flood. New Orleans is threatened again. The weather is cold; we might have snow tonight. Unheard of. A swarm of F4 and F5 tornadoes ravaged the south in April while Texas is in extreme drought and had record setting fires. The bark beetle has taken out millions of acres of coniferous forest in the west.
But Gilding is right: it doesn't look like we will summon the political will to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere until the first major calamity happens. All the 350.org rallies and educational projects mean nothing until we are affected directly. That means food supply. Seeing as climate change is projected to mostly impact agriculture and forestry--that might happen sooner rather than later.
The reality is that climate change will not be seen as a problem until it is a problem. Until then, expect more of an anti-enviro backlash from those who believe that the engine of growth and the carbon economy bring the greatest amount of prosperity.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2011
This is easily one of the best books I've read on climate change and sustainability. It describes what is to come based on the inexorable logic of physics and chemistry, the disruption it would cause, the response that is likely, the fundamental questioning of our most sacred economic assumptions (that of unlimited growth and consumerism), the technologies and policies that will help solve the problem, the importance of markets with goals set by government, and finally the necessary change in values needed to move forward.
The style of the book is very down to earth with some sobering analysis of what is to come, as well as what is likely follow. He explains why what is to follow is optimistic. (He also has a sense of humor.) The book is richly supported with past and present evidence about human and institutional behavior. This lends the book plausibility and realism. He convincingly details how things will play out in the coming decades. Most prominently, he draws on the mobilization of the World War II as an example of what is possible once it is clear the situation is "do or die". There will not be a concrete moment, an environmental "Pearl Harbor" to engender unity and mobilization. Instead, the early feedback signals will be economic, food and water shortages, rising prices, economic and social disruption in the coming decade (hopefully, before the catastrophic "tipping points", the point of no return.)
Reading Paul's book has given me hope and a measure of peace, mainly because it has given me understanding. It has given me a map of how the we can move forward given what we already know about human nature and institutions. It makes an appeal to the "better human" already in our human nature and a return to those values that give us happiness, such as community, a sense of connectedness and purpose.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2011
I'm not a climate change sceptic. I simply don't think this book is worth the money. The first half of the book is the better part. The author argues that climate change is now unavoidable, and that a major catastrophe will take place that will force people into action.
But he nevers says what is going to happen, and he provides absolutely no factual basis for his belief that it will take place within the next ten years. The other points he makes in the book are already common knowledge for people interested in the subject.
The second half of the book is farcical romp through alternative energy options that will save the survivors. Of course, he never critically examines whether any of these options are feasible (e.g., a solar panel in every yard). In fact, if he had read the sources he cites in the first half of the book (The Long Emergency and The Vanishing Face of Gaia) he would realize alternative energy will not save us.
This is not even pseudo-science. It's merely the musings of an environmental activists. Read the aforementioned books and skip this one.
39 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2011
This is almost surely the worst book I read, or slogged through, of an environmentalist background.
First, the naive cornucopian futurism. Gilding gets the worry level about global warming right, but, to claim that we are going to come out on the far side of the crash not only all right but living in a future golden age is naive at the least, and has no scientific foundation at the most. So, from the start, we're getting a conflation of environmentalism and cornucopian futurism.
Second, for a former Communist-oriented labor activist, Gilding can be naive about businesses at times. Claiming that there's a strong ethical culture at DuPont, and that this is why it decided to phase out CFC production?
Uhh, wrong. Reality? Most of DuPont's CFC patents were about to expire; creating new, but similar, refrigerants that could be patented was just good business sense topped with a coat of greenwashing. Reality? Long since phasing out CFCs, DuPont still has an iffy environmental record, on such things as Teflon production byproduct PFOA. A visit to a place like Sourcewatch would have told Gilding the reality about DuPont.
And, folks, this is all just in the first chapter!
Given that Gilding's cornucopian futurist prophecies are largely structured on the goodwill of companies like DePont in whom he naively trusts, save your time and money.
I can understand a Tom Friedman writing a blurb for the book, too, but Bill McKibben? Geez.
This might have enough redeeming value to be a two-star, but wayyyy too many people are five-starring it, so down it goes.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 24, 2011
A must read for anyone who rocks with reality. If you are one of those people who changes the subject and looks the other way when the elephant walks in the room this is not for you. Unless of course you think it's time to get over it, brush away the cobwebs and look the kids in the eye. Gilding tells us we are in a place in time like 1930s Europe and we are faced with similar decisions and indecisions. But this time the stakes are far higher - not who runs civilization but whether it survives at all. He astutely describes the dynamics of denial that suck most of us back into a sense that the years to come can be pretty much like those just past. However, he argues, a great disruption in our way of living is upon us NOW and the sooner we face it and mobilize as for a great war the better our chances of pulling through.
So is this a doom and gloom story? Not as it comes from Gilding. It will be hard for critics to throw him in with Cassandras like Roberto Vacca who some thirty years ago wrote "The Coming Dark Age": head for the hills, hunker down, make monastries. Gilding sounds more like historian Stavrianos, who responded to systems analyst Vacca with optomism in "The Promise of the Coming Dark Age". A rapid renaissance and a better life awaits beyond shopping and fossil fuel gluttony.
Unlike Stavrianos Gilding is not an academic but an accomplished everyman who is well plugged in from the grass roots to the Masters of the corporate Universe. Get it, read it, challenge it, but digest it and ACT. We have the choice to be conscious (or not) during what just might be one of the most interesting moments ever to be alive. "The Great Disruption" is not another book, it's an invitation to tune in.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2011
What a pity. This could have been a great book. Its message is very important.
It is in a sense the answer to Thomas Friedman's "World is Flat", a well written book with one big conceptual flaw. Mr Friedman thought the world's resources were infinite when he wrote that book. Mr Friedman has since discovered that if the world is flat and finite, you fall off .. and now recommends The Great Disruption.
But in contrast to Mr Friedman, Mr Gilding is a self-absorbed writer who cannot organize important information on paper. So it is a very boring and irritating read and I agree with other reviewers who have said so.
But I don't want to kill the message, which is very relevant and there are some interesting insights. But I feel he is only managing to preach to the converted. We need a book that will reach much broader audiences.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2011
The Great Disruption does an excellent job of describing our current predicaments regarding not just excess CO2 in the atmosphere, but the depletion of the things that keep life, and the economy, moving. These include forests, clean water, nitrogen, phosphates, and a variety of things that cannot just be manufactured into existence.
Given Gilding's forthright approach, it is frustrating and puzzling that he dismisses any limits to population growth as part of the solution to climate change. For instance, he says that "while individual nations (most notably China) can and have acted on their own populations, there is no realistic chance that we could reach a global agreement to slow global population growth in the countries we need to in any meaningful way." Yet Gilding correctly observes that global agreements are not necessary in order to take significant steps to lessen CO2, build alternative energy sources, or make other positive changes to the environment. Gilding does not explain which countries he is referring to vis a vis slowing "global population growth in the countries we need to" but I would counter that we need to slow population growth everywhere. Rich people consume the most, and so it is vital they refrain from bringing more children into their high-consumption lifestyles; poor people have the least resources to deal with the terrible impacts of climate change, and so need far greater opportunities to limit their family sizes. Rich and poor, we all need to have fewer children. It doesn't take global agreements, or even government involvement necessarily to get parents to make better decisions. Indeed, Gilding discusses at length how individuals can live well without taking a big toll on the environment, and cites non-governmental activities including the exploding market for organic foods, the Compact, and LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability) in general as seeds of a new, sustainable way of living. Certainly voluntary limits on family size belong in this picture!
Despite the book's serious shortcomings regarding population issues, I would encourage anyone to read it. Those who do believe we can make significant and positive changes should pay particular attention to the author's candid and positive tone. He articulates just the kind of tough-love approach that activists would do well to emulate.