Friday, December 03, 2010

David W. Orr, Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse
Oxford University Press, 2009

In 'Down to the Wire' David Orr asks, "Can we overcome the tendency to settle for half-truths?" This book is a distillation of information you (literally) cannot survive without and is an excellent introduction to what Orr calls "the many disciplines of applied hope."

I've read a number of the popular books on climate change (McKibben, Friedman, Brown) and this seems to me the most useful -- perhaps best read in conjunction with McKibben's EAARTH: Making A Life on a Tough New Planet.

David Orr is remarkably skillful at presenting information about vastly disparate topics in a readable, memorable way. This allows him to discuss the many fundamental ways that the government, the media, the constitution, the military, the economy and all of our lifestyles are going to have to change if we want a snowball's chance of surviving on an already greatly altered planet.

Like the great Joanna Macy, Orr explores our urgent need to learn how to think and perceive differently. As humans, we are engineered to see what's large and fast. We must change the ways we perceive, as well as what we value, if we are going to survive. After dismissing geoengineering quick fixes, he writes, "The job of building a decent world will come down to how well we understand ourselves and how much we can improve the 'still unlovely human mind'."

Orr insists that, contrary to popular belief, people can handle hearing the truth about our situation. We have no other option. Like a late-stage alcoholic, we must change the way we live or doom ourselves and our children. Many of the changes we feared have already occurred. "We are rapidly creating a different Earth, and one we are not going to like." Despite the nonsense that fills our government and airwaves, we have not a moment to waste.

Orr writes, "I know a great many smart people and many very good people but I know far fewer people who can handle hard truth gracefully without despairing." This book is a good first step toward becoming one of those strong and graceful people.

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