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Thinking “Resilience”

The bottom line for sustainability is that any proposal for sustainable development that does not explicitly acknowledge a system’s resilience is simply not going to keep delivering the goods (or services). Resilience science is based on the simple premise that change is inevitable and that attempts to resist change or control it in any strict […]

Getting Fossil Fuels Off the Plate

My grubby little town was full of young men in big trucks and muscle cars who had come north to make their fortunes in the oil fields.  During oil booms they kept the bars hopping and the hookers busy, dropping hundred dollar bills like candy…When the wells ran dry the young men disappeared, shops shuttered […]

Remapping Relationships: Humans in Nature

It seems that the more a society sees itself as cerebral, with clever technological and material innovations, the more its bonds with, and recognition of, the significance of nature processes and ecosystems recede. The ability to create artificial environments (air conditioning, heating, lighting) and chemically alter natural materials (processed food, plastic) perhaps gives the illusion […]

Hydrocarbons in North America

The sheer scale of our dependency on nonrenewable, energy-dense “fossilized sunshine” is often lost on those who believe that renewable energy sources can supplant hydrocarbons at anything like today’s level of energy consumption. Thus it is prudent to examine the prognosis for fossil fuels within North America, as they will make up the bulk of […]

Peak Nature?

As it has grown in numbers and technological might, the human race has become a force of geophysical proportion, on par with the asteroid that struck the Yucatan during the Cretaceous era, dethroning Tyrannosaurus rex.  Extinction is final.  Yet no species is immortal.  Extinction has been part of evolution since life emerged on Earth. This […]

Toward Zero-Carbon Buildings

Despite its persuasive momentum, the green building movement signifies a mere initial advance toward a low-carbon future. Even as we acknowledge that green facilities must be the building blocks of the resilient cities of tomorrow, we face significant barriers to a wholesale shift in the industry. Several challenges dominate… This is a chapter from The […]

The Competitiveness of Local Living Economies

Economic localization offers the key to solving a growing number of global problems, including peak oil, climate disruption, and financial meltdowns.  Yet the perception remains that this solution is very costly, because local goods and services supposedly are more expensive than their global alternatives.  American consumers are convinced that “big-box” stores and bigger businesses mean […]

Transportation in the Post-Carbon World

Successful post-carbon transitions will benefit from understanding the dynamics of transport revolutions.  We define a transport revolution as being substantial change in a society’s transport activity–moving people or freight, or both–that occurs in less than twenty five years. This is a chapter from The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises (2010).