From Publishers Weekly
With easy-to-understand terminology and a mountain of research, Toronto author Homer-Dixon (The Ingenuity Gap) faces down imminent, unavoidable and catastrophic threats to modern civilization, keeping a wary eye on mankind's chances to adapt. Methodically illustrating how the modern world is doomed to suffer a large-scale breakdown, Homer-Dixon enumerates the "tectonic stresses" on civilization-population growth disparities, energy scarcity, environmental damage, and economic instabilities-and the "multipliers"-increasing global connectivity and small groups' ability to enact destruction-that help propel them. Woven throughout are well-illustrated comparisons between the current state of industrialized nations-especially the U.S.-with the unsustainable complexities, and subsequent downfall, of the Roman Empire. With each page, humanity's situation seems more dire, but Homer-Dixon argues that the force of "catagenesis"-the "commonplace occurrence of renewal through breakdown"-means that good will come from the collapse of civilization as we know it. Unfortunately, he offers few practical suggestions as to how we can prepare for civilization's inevitable failure, and little evidence on which to hang hope. As a result, the book takes on a tone of doomsday prophecy directly at odds with its title. Where Homer-Dixon succeeds admirably is in explaining exactly why modern stresses are so worrisome and the outcomes that neglect could cause.
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“Thomas (Tad) Homer-Dixon is the giant-killer of overwhelming issues.”
“[Thomas Homer-Dixon] is just the man for the job. . . . The book introduces general readers to a number of key concepts pursued by Homer-Dixon in his academic studies on the links between population growth, environmental degradation and global security. It is his ability to delineate those links that makes The Upside of Down such a sobering and stimulating read.”
“Homer-Dixon [is] a magpie of knowledge.”
“Thomas Homer-Dixon . . . has taken off the gloves with humanity. No more talk of what might
occur. . . . A crash is inevitable.”
–The Globe and Mail
“This is an ambitious book. . . . Those familiar with Homer-Dixon’s earlier work . . . will not be surprised by the wide-ranging scope and technical virtuosity of his writing. By any measure, this book is an impressive achievement. It is a thoughtful and thought-provoking book. . . . for those who want a clear and accessible overview of this catastrophist debate, and one with a Canadian flavour . . . this is a useful place to start.”
–The Globe and Mail
"For over a decade, Thomas Homer-Dixon has provided that rare thing: a bridge between leading-edge research and the lay reader. Now, addressing the great problems of our time, he points us towards a path forward."
–Robert D. Kaplan,
senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, author of Imperial Grunts
and The Coming Anarchy
"Anyone who doubts the seriousness of the human predicament should read Thomas Homer-Dixon’s brilliant The Upside of Down
. Anyone who understands the seriousness should also read it for Homer-Dixon’s insightful ideas about how to make society more resilient in the face of near-inevitable environmental and social catastrophes."
President of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University, author of The Population Bomb
Praise for Thomas Homer-Dixon:
"Thomas Homer-Dixon is a sort of Bruce Chatwin of ideas. [His writing is] addictive."
"The greatest strength of The Ingenuity Gap
is in Homer-Dixon’s ability to illustrate the thin line between order and chaos, prosperity and starvation, or compassion and carelessness in today’s world. The book is a wake-up call to all citizens to take notice of our collective deterioration and therefore . . . it has the potential to be one of the most important and revolutionary books of recent years."
"Thomas Homer-Dixon is one of the few people on the planet who could have tackled what he defines as the world’s overriding issue: the yawning ‘ingenuity’ gap between the need for practical solutions to complex problems, from global warming to Third World poverty, and the actual supply of workable ideas."