For those who do not know this, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action earned Elinor Ostrom a Nobel Peace Prize in Economics. This book, by the author of Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable is of that caliber. A later book,, Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life is easier to read — if you have time for only one go with the latter.
The core message of this book is that you cannot predict or control high impact low probability events, but you can downsize, localize, you can decentralize, and in so doing make much of the ecology “antifragile.”
This book makes the jump from 5 stars (generally I don’t bother to review a book if it is not a four or five star read) to 6 stars — my top ten percent — because of the combination of Questions Asked, glorious color graphics, and the total holistic nature of the book — this is easily a PhD thesis in holistic analytics, true cost economics, and open source everything engineering. Indeed, this book could be used as a first-year reference across any humanities and science domain, they would be the better for it.
Global trends of population growth, rising living standards and the rapidly increasing urbanized world are increasing the demand on water, food and energy. Added to this is the growing threat of climate change which will have huge impacts on water and food availability. It is increasingly clear that there is no place in an interlinked world for isolated solutions aimed at just one sector. In recent years the “nexus” has emerged as a powerful concept to capture these inter-linkages of resources and is now a key feature of policy-making.
This book is one of the first to provide a broad overview of both the science behind the nexus and the implications for policies and sustainable development. It brings together contributions by leading intergovernmental and governmental officials, industry, scientists and other stakeholder thinkers who are working to develop the approaches to the Nexus of water-food-energy and climate. It represents a major synthesis and state-of-the-art assessment of the Nexus by major players, in light of the adoption by the United Nations of the new Sustainable Development Goals and Targets in 2015.
5.0 out of 5 stars6 Star Synthesis, Starting Point for Anyone Who Wishes to Think Holistically, July 4, 2015
The author taught me most of what I retain in the way of political science fundamentals during our time together at Muhlenberg College, where he was former Chair of the Department of Political Science and an Associate Dean. We had not kept in touch since I left Muhlenberg in 1974, but in 2014 I reached out to him and bought this book immediately upon learning of its existence.
Published in 2003 by the State University of New York Press, this book was evidently not marketed at all, and little noted. That is a sad commentary on our times, because I find that the author has distilled multiple literatures into one coherent presentation, augmented by an original model that tells a vital story beyond Ecological Economics into Ecological Political Economy (in essence, politics), into Ecological Ethics and Ecological Pedagogy, two topics rarely covered by others.
5.0 out of 5 starsBrings Us Full Circle — Valuable as Remedial Education for All, June 27, 2015
David Korten has been one of my heroes and indirect mentors through his books for over a decade. His book The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community resonated deeply with me, and I completely agree that the premise of that book, to wit, people are the new (restored) super-power actualized through local resilience and global community.
This book takes on great importance as we reflect on the United Nations and its Sustainability Development Goals (SDG), combined with The Most Holy Father agreeing to visit the UN in September to deliver and encyclical that has been leaked, on climate change. This book can be considered the middle book, the book that brings a largely unconscious public, generally poorly read, up to speed with “the new story.” It is not a new story, as one reviewer archly observes, it is in fact the original story harking back to a time when our indigenous ancestors respected the Mother Earth, observed plants and animals as co-equal intelligence, forgot nothing through oral history, and generally acted as stewards of the earth. One of the best books showing before (Mayan, Aztec) and after (guns, germs, steel) is 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.
5.0 out of 5 starsWorld-Changing Book Documenting Intersection of Humans, Technology, and Policy-Ethics, February 2, 2015
This is a hugely important work, one that responds to the critical needs outlined by Micah Sifry in The Big Disconnect: Why The Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (Yet) and others such as myself writing these past 25 years on the need to reform the pathologically dysfunctional US secret intelligence community that is in constant betrayal of the public trust.
Digital Humanitarians are BURYING the secret world. For all the bru-ha-ha over NSA’s mass surveillance and the $100 billion a year we spend doing largely technical spying (yet only processing 1% of what we waste money on in collection), there are two huge facts that this book, FOR THE FIRST TIME, documents:
5.0 out of 5 starsAddresses a Major Vacuum in Our Approach to Any Challenge, 16 Dec 2014
This is a hugely important book that I hope will become popular in the USA, and translated into other languages. I learned of its existence while attending a Findhorn Foundation event in Scotland, “The New Story Summit.” At one point there was a discussion of how United Nations “peacekeepers” are sent in to keep the peace but do so at the point of a gun, without any training in human interaction or the fundamentals of story-telling, narrative weaving, listening, observing, and all the other human “arts.” This one story impressed me greatly.
Having now read the book, I want to emphasize my enchantment by confessing that I am a Naked Truth kind of person, the diametric opposite of the Story Teller. As with UN peacekeepers, I have been badly trained, equipped, and organized for a world in which conversation and story-telling are alternatives to confrontation and violence.
Although the author and the book focus on the role of story-telling in relation to peace-making, I would emphasize its value in creating common prosperity at well — in creating the means of self-governance with respect for the limits of nature and the importance of doing no harm.
5.0 out of 5 starsBrilliant Story of Biological Evolution — Our Yoda Speaks, December 2, 2014
I met the author at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland where we were both attending the New Story Summit. So let’s start by me saying that this is what Yoda looks like in grandmother form. Elisabet Sahtouris is a HUGE brain packed into an earth form that is most kindly and hugely inspiring. Being around her is heart-warming, life-affirming, and intellectually stimulating — a full-brain massage in a cosmic-calm embrace.
Although I have read other work by her in the past — and I especially love her work as available free via YouTube — this book is a convergence of simple explanation about a relatively simple cosmos that we disrespect at our peril. This is a great overview of biological evolution and essential education for every adult who wishes to be responsible toward their children and Earth.
5.0 out of 5 starsCommon Sense Community-Based Economics, October 25, 2014
Laurence Brahm is one of those unsung heroes who was changing the world for the better, and influencing various governments in most positive ways, long before ecological economics and social enterprise became fashionable turns of phrase. I regard him as the anti-thesis to the predatory capitalism mantras and methods of our time. His proven focus on community development and evolutionary blends of state planning and market incentives is precisely what we need now that everyone understands that Western governments have been corrupted and Western economies destroyed by financial interests devoted to extracting value instead of creating value. This is a practical book, a spiritual book, and one that should be required reading among those intent on creating collaborative economies and social enterprises.
His recommended gradualist evolutionary approach is ethical and focused on stable transformation, not rapid looting by foreign bankers.
Quote (41): The fundamental failure of ivory tower cookie-cutter models, for all of their theoretical perfection, is that they ignore local conditions, culture, mindset, and historical burdens.”
5.0 out of 5 starsCo-Creator with Buckminster Fuller of the Analog World Game, The Gold Standard for Serious Games 4.0, September 4, 2014
Medard Gabel, co-creator with Buckminster Fuller of the analog World Game, and architect of the digital EarthGame(TM), is “root” for anyone who wishes to do holistic design, true cost economics, serious games, and open source information-sharing and sense-making. He is too little known, very modest, and does not get the deep attention that he merits.
I have participated in his design seminars, and am always thrilled at how well they work. Everyone starts out working on “their” problem, generally an issue in isolation, and around the middle of the week-long seminar, all the different teams experience the “aha” moment when they realize that they cannot succeed in isolation, that all the challenges need to be addresses by everyone working together.
For me Medard Gabel is the “gold standard” and none of the serious games, however well-intentioned they might be, can be helpful beyond their narrow niche for lack of the holistic understanding and the information-sharing and sense-making architecture that Medard provides for — mostly human, not technical at all. As Russell Ackoff likes to say, what is good for one part of the system might be very bad for all the other parts — Comprehensive architecture and prime design — all threats, all policies, all demographics — are essential to our moving past the toxic industrial era of reductionsim and separation that we have fostered these past two hundred years.
I rate this book, because it is a collection of the best of the best from past books, some of which I reviewed at the time, at six stars instead of five.
5.0 out of 5 stars6 Star Collective Common Sense Relevant to CYBER-Commons Not Just Earth Commons, May 27, 2014
I read this book shortly after I had read Stop, Thief!: The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance (Spectre) and my first impression is that the book should be re-issued in 2015, a quarter-century after it was first published, with additional material on how everything here is applicable to governing the cyber-commons. I have to recommend the two books together — STOP THIEF lays down with deep historical and multi-cultural foundation that gives GOVERNING THE COMMONS even more credibility — and for those that do not realize, this book earned the author a Nobel Prize in Economics.
On that note, I would point out that this book crushes the traditional explanations for why the state or the firm are superior decision-making alternatives to bottom-up citizen common sense. This book is also consistent with the LOSING proposal to the Club of Rome that recommended we focus on educating the global public (a universal bottom-up approach). As well now know, the Club of Rome chose the wrong solution, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, because is assumed that top-down mandated measures were the only measures that could be effective.