The World We Made – Review
The World We Made, by Jonathon Porritt, October 2013. Phaidon Press, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-71486-361-0. RRP £24.95
Environmentalists must ask themselves: why after 50 or so years of campaigning have we failed to get mass support? Of course there are powerful vested interests ranged against us. But perhaps it is also that for too long our gloom and doom rhetoric and sketching a future that sounded much like sackcloth and ashes was a turn off for the great majority of people. And finally people could simply not envisage what a sustainable world would look like. Perhaps even environmentalists in their less optimistic moments secretly wondered – is it really possible?
This original, well researched, imaginative and brave (though at times slightly irritating) book by Jonathon Porritt has tackled these dilemmas head on. It does so by imagining the world of a teacher in America (Alex McKay) who in 2050 carried out a research project with his students to describe what steps were taken to get to the world in 2050 which he describes as so much more stable and content than the world of 2022 (which he described as on the brink of collapse).
It does so in 50 chapters each one devoted to a topic for example water, food, biodiversity, climate challenges, solar revolutions, economics and finance, society and cities, travel etc. Any one of them would be a good starting point for learning about some of the cutting edge current and potential future technologies that may be well within our grasp to help us achieve our goal of a sustainable world. But it does not neglect the social, cultural, political and financial hurdles to be overcome.
In a chapter called “Spiritual Militancy” he has Alex Mckay stating that the contribution of the world’s religions has been absolutely critical to achieving the more sustainable world. He traces this back to the Assisi environmental statement of the five major world religions in1986. He envisages a series of radical shifts in priorities and commitments by the religions which we can only hope and pray will come about.
Jonathon Porritt in a postscript says that he is wary about offering a “technotopia” as a panacea for all our ills, but the world he has conjured up for 2050 does in his view “at least provide a vision of a future that doesn’t entail the near-total collapse of everything we hold dear in our world today.” He says it has “powerfully reinforced my belief that securing a genuinely sustainable world for about nine billion people by 2050 is still possible.” It has had the same impact on me.
This is a very thought provoking book which repays careful study. It would also be of real benefit to anyone faced with the naysayers who say “yes all very well, but how can we get to the situation you greens suggest we need to get to.”
By Mike Monaghan