This is the second best of several books on environmental policy I have reviewed, and it merits careful scrutiny in part because it brings together a number of expert authors and there is in essence “something for everyone” in this edited work. What is lacks, though, is a good summary chapter that lists how the “precautionary principle” should be applied across each of the top ten environmental areas of concern–something that could circulate more easily than the book, and perhaps have a beneficial policy impact at the local, state, and national levels–and I suggest this because the meat of the book is good, it needs an executive summary.
The chapter that was most meaningful to me, the one that I think needs to be migrated into business education, international affairs education, science & technology policy education, is by Gordon K. Durnil, Chapter 16, and it deal with “How Much Information Do We Need Before Exercising Precaution.” This is a brilliant piece of work that dissects our current environmental policy information collection, processing, and analysis system, and finds it very deceptive, disingenuous, and consequently seriously flawed.
For the best on the environment, read Pandora’s Poison. For the best on public health, read Betrayal of Trust. For a very fine cross-over book that has good chapters from various good people, this is the book to buy and enjoy.
Vastly More Practical (and Political) Than Title Suggests,
March 18, 2001
I almost did not buy this book, and I say that because an awful lot of really smart folks might be inclined to turn away on the basis of the title and the possibility that this is a fairy tale wishful-thinking la la land kind of book. It is not. It is practical (and political), it is enriching, and it is over-all a very high quality endeavor that has been well executed.
Four “great truths” are articulated many times over across the various readings, and they merit listing here:
1) Campaign finance reform is the absolute non-negotiable first step that must precede every other reform. Until the people can reassert their great common sense for the common good, and restore the true democratic tradition, nothing else will happen.
2) Neighborhoods are the bedrock of both democracy and sustainable development, and we have spent fifty years building in the wrong direction. New legal and economic incentives must be found to redirect both urban and suburban real estate management back in the direction of self-contained neighborhoods.
3) Local production of everything, from electricity to food to major goods like automobiles) appears to be a pre-requisite for deconflicting high quality of life needs from limited resource availability. The book includes several very intelligent discussions of how this might come about.
4) Networking makes everything else possible, and by this the book means electronic networking. I was especially fascinated by some of the examples of near-real-time sharing that electronic networking makes possible–everything from a neighborhood car to scheduled hand-me-downs of winter coats from one family to another. We have not progressed one mile down the road of what the Internet makes possible at a personal and neighborhood level, and I would recommend this book for that perspective alone.
The creative editorial role must be applauded. From the identification and recruitment of the contributors, to the selection of the photographs that each tell their own story, to the quality of the paper used to create the book, all testify to the competence and knowledge of the editor.
Lastly, it merits comment that the book serves as a very fine calling card from something called The Global Renaissance Alliance, a spiritually-oriented group that nurtures Citizens Circles and uses a web site to provide pointers to resources and other like-minded folk.
Enduring Classic on the Hard Truth about Changing Minds,
May 29, 2000
Thomas S. Kuhn
Two points are worthy of emphasis: 1) the paradigm shift is always forced and 2) until the paradigm shift occurs, always suddenly, the incumbents can comfortably explain everything with their existing paradigm. There will be many from the current “laissez faire” academics without accountability environment who would be critical of this book, but the fact is that it’s fundamentals are on target; as the sociology of knowledge has shown time and time again, “thinkers” are nepotistic, incestuous, and generally lazy, as well as mono-lingual and culturally-constrained, and it takes a major shock-wave to push any given intellectual domain up to the next plateau.
Kevin has produced what I regard as one of the top five books of this decade. A very tough read but worth the effort. I had not understood the entire theory of co-evolution developed by Stewart Brand and represented in the Co-Evolution Quarterly and The Whole Earth until I read this book. Kevin introduces the concept of the “hive mind”, addresses how biological systems handle complexity, moves over into industrial ecology and network economics, and concludes with many inspiring reflections on the convergence of biological and technical systems. He was easily a decade if not two ahead of his time.
Creating World Brain and the Virtual Intelligence Community
April 7, 2000
E. O. Wilson
EDITED 9 July 2007 to add comment and links to other books.
Comment: This is still one of the best books for someone who wants to think deeply about knowledge. Below are links to some others I recommend.
Our answer to Levy, but an order of magnitude more practical and steeped in some of the best endnotes I’ve ever enjoyed. Consilience is the “jumping together” of knowledge across boundaries, and the greatest enterprise of the mind. He begins with an example, showing how biology, ethics, social science, and environmental policy must all come together to properly resolve a global environmental issue, but actually do not-the learned individuals are fragmented into four separate communities, and within those communities further fragmented into nationalities and cliques and jobs, and it is our greater loss for we cannot arrive at the best policy without being able to integrate the knowledge across all these boundaries. He emphasizes that the public must be educated and have access to this unified knowledge, not just the policymakers. He poses, and then answers across the book, this question: “What is the relation between science and the humanities, and how is it important to human welfare?” In my own mind, Edward O. Wilson has defined both national and global intelligence writ large, and done so in way that suggests the “virtual intelligence community” is a very practical and achievable vision.