As you know, The World We'll Leave Behind is the new book that Paul Vare and I have written for Routledge / Greenleaf which they will publish in February.
There are 55 self-contained chapters, typically around 1000 words. Each one focuses on a key idea setting out its essence and showing its connections to other ideas. These are presented in three sections: issues concepts, and strategies. Inevitably, however, the distinction between these is not always clear-cut because one thing is inevitably connected to another; usually to many others.
[i] Issues – These are the real challenges we now face because of our own past and present activities.
Many of these are problems we have created in the biosphere by how we have acted. These include: warming the atmosphere and ocean, depleting the ozone in the stratosphere, making the seas more acidic, polluting the air and sources of fresh water, destroying habitats and eco-systems, reducing biodiversity and driving species to near extinction, and, of course, rapid climate change. They also include the consequences of these actions, such as food scarcity and famine, and the plight of refugees. But some of the challenges are different. These are the problems that we have created by how we think about other people, for example, inequality, gender disparity, discrimination, and the lack of environmental justice which are, in turn, related to issues of economic growth and the global human population.
[ii] Concepts – These are the ideas and mental frameworks that we use us to think about and understand these challenges.
Some of these are about understanding nature and the biosphere, ideas such as biodiversity and phenomena such as the greenhouse effect, and the idea of the Earth as a living organism: Gaia. Some are concerned with how we think about the relationships between humanity and the biosphere, for example, the Anthropocene, systems thinking, harmony, complexity and resilience. Others are about the ideas we have developed to explain what has gone wrong, and what we might do to improve matters, such as sustainable development and its 17 global goals, and how such ideas are framed. Some are about notions such as globalisation and neoliberalism that concern the politics of global commerce.
[iii] Strategies – These are the means through which such challenges might be addressed and possibly resolved or overcome.
Some of these are things that governments can do, through policies, legislation, and formal education programmes. Some are social, such as the transition movement, and are led by ordinary people, and some arise from international agencies and global charities, for example, the sustainable development goals and the Earth Charter, the protection of endangered species, and the identification of protected areas for wildlife. Some are what business can initiate, for example, the circular economy and carbon capture and storage. Alongside these practical strategies, there are also particular ways of thinking and approaching problems, for example, through biomimicry and rewilding.
We have written the book for anyone who has an interest in the environmental and social challenges facing humanity today. For anyone who would like to have a brief introduction to these challenges, the ideas that help explain them and some of the possible strategies for addressing them. We don't set out to provide an in-depth account of the problems facing us, or a deep historical perspective on their development. Neither is this a toolkit, self-help book or a set of instructions for good living. Books about environmental and social sustainability with these purposes already exist. Rather, we set out to summarise ideas in a way that will help people join in the public and political debate, and think about the state of the world that we shall all leave behind.