GFB Update

A monthly newsletter on the vast and underappreciated world of current affairs books


Michael Marien, Director

1:8, August 2011

In This Issue
Book of the Month: OECD's Towards Green Growth
20 New Recommended Titles
World Futures
Global Economy
Human Rights and Well-Being
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Book of the Month


Towards Green Growth Cover

Towards Green Growth. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  Paris: OECD, June 2011, 142p, $39 (free PDF and summaries in 24 languages at


Where are we headed and what should be done about global and national economic and environmental problems? The OECD has a highly-detailed answer that addresses both economic issues (productivity, stability, jobs, reduced negative shocks) and environmental concerns (climate change, energy, pollution, water, health). OECD has already published several reports on its sensible "Green Growth Strategy," and this important report summarizes work done so far, while indicating potential directions.


The proposed "Policy Framework for Green Growth" involves careful multi-faceted policy design, use of market instruments such as green taxes, proper regulation to provide incentives, changing consumer behavior, encouraging innovation, building government capacity, and investing in green infrastructure. Promoting transition to green growth must also make adjustments in the labor market, manage distributional impacts, rethink economic measures of "progress," and promote international cooperation. Is there a better way forward?


The big problem is translating this complex vision into language and imagery that can be readily understood by politicians, and, more important, the public. In the absence of such an effort made by many visible spokespersons, national public policy in the US-and perhaps some other nations-is moving in the opposite direction, toward radically downsized government in the short-term, with no comprehensive and constructive guiding vision to stimulate and align private sector activity. 

20 New Recommended Adds
Find below five thematic selections of new GFB titles promising to be important, original, and authoritative. 

World FuturesRecommended Books

 2011 World Population Data Sheet

The 2011 World Population Data Sheet (PRB, July 2011), presenting population projections to 2025 and 2050 for all regions and nations of the world, notes that world population will top 7 billion in fall 2011, growing to 8.1 billion by 2025 and 9.6 billion by 2050-more than recently anticipated. The 2011 State of the Future report, now in its 15th edition (Millennium Project, Aug 2011), updates its useful overview of 15 Global Challenges, concluding that the world needs increasingly coordinated and mutually supporting global policies. This is the key message of former UN deputy secretary-general Mark Malloch-Brown in The Unfinished Global Revolution: The Pursuit of a New International Politics (Penguin, Feb 2011), who argues that as we have become more integrated, we have also become less governed. Good news is offered by French demographers Youssef Courbage and Emmanuel Todd in A Convergence of Civilizations: The Transformation of Muslim Societies Around the World (Columbia U Press, April 2011), who note a massive secularization movement among Arab and Muslim populations entering into a global modernity. Bad news is presented by War on Drugs: Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy (June 2011, 24p), warning that vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures have clearly failed, and that "fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed." Commission members include former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, a former US Secretary of State, and former presidents of Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. 

Sustainability/EnergyRecommended Books  
Towards a Sustainable AsiaComplementing the OECD's Green Growth Strategy, the Association of Academies of Sciences in Asia is publishing a multi-volume series, Towards a Sustainable Asia (Springer, Sept 2011), similar to multi-volume series by the US National Research Council ("America's Climate Choices") and the "Sustainability Science" series by Japanese scientists (published by United Nations U Press).   But will these authoritative science-based proposals by accepted by citizens and their elected leaders, or even noticed?  Who is listening-and learning?  The world's current approach to climate change is mostly ineffective, according to David G. Victor in Global Warming Gridlock: Creating More Effective Strategies for Protecting the Planet (Cambridge U Press, April 2011), and small groups of "climate clubs" are needed instead of engaging the whole world at once.  Climate change efforts will involve hundreds of billions of dollars and invite corruption, according to Transparency International's Global Corruption Report: Climate Change (Earthscan, May 2011), which urges "a dramatic strengthening of governance mechanisms" to reduce corruption risk and make climate change policy more effective.  According to TI, "Climate change is arguably the greatest governance challenge the world has ever faced."  In the US, Columbia U law professor Michael J. Graetz states in The End of Energy: The Unmaking of America's Environment, Security, and Independence (MIT Press, April 2011) that Americans have been living an energy delusion for 40 years, and have never been asked to pay a price that reflects the real cost of energy consumed.  Similarly, former Director of Central Intelligence and Deputy Secretary of Defense John M. Deutch, author of The Crisis in Energy Policy (Harvard U Press, Oct 2011) critiques the "muddled practices" that have passed for energy policy in the last 30 years and argues for an effective approach to climate change and transition to renewables.  In America's Climate Problem: The Way Forward (Earthscan, March 2011), Robert Repetto, former prof at Yale U and  VP of the World Resources Institute, states that what the US does-or fails to do-in the next few years will largely determine the fate of earth and humanity, and shows how the US can promote international cooperation on climate solutions.  Can the OECD's Green Growth Strategy help make a difference, or will it be dismissed as "not invented here"?
Global Economy: Recommeded Books
The Deepening Crisis CoverIn a new "Possible Future Series," the US-based Social Science Research Council looks at The Deepening Crisis: Governance Challenges after Neoliberalism (NYU Press and SSRC, July 2011; Craig Calhoun and Georgi Derluguian, eds.), noting that response to the financial meltdown is entangled with basic challenges to global governance and issues of environment, global security, ethnicity, and nationalism.  In a companion volume, Aftermath: A New Global Economic Order? (NYU/SSRC, July 2011), also edited by Calhoun and Derluguian, addresses deep problems with mainstream economic predictions, likely conflicts over global trade policy and currency standards, and the question of which countries will grow in coming decades.  What's Next? Unconventional Wisdom on the Future of the World Economy (Yale U Press, March 2011), edited by David Hale and Lyric Hughes Hale, makes prognoses for the world's major economies over the next five years and points to the most likely economic scenarios. 
Human Rights and Well-Being: Recommended Books 

Visions SeenThe universal nature of the human rights movemeand recent developments are described by Paul Gordon Lauren in The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen (U of Pennsylvania Press, 3rd Edition, Feb 2011).  A parallel account of humanitarian action is provided by Michael Barnett of GWU in Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism (Cornell U Press, April 2011), noting that the most impressive gains come after moments of radical inhumanity.  Nevertheless, inequality remains widespread, as illustrated by Ben Crow and Suresh K. Lodha in The Atlas of Global Inequalities (U of California Press, Feb 2011), which reveals many differences within and between countries with maps, charts, and brief discussion.  The founders of the Poverty Action Lab at MIT, Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo, question conventional wisdoms and offer yet another new approach in Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty (Public Affairs, April 2011).  And overall attention to global health is the focus of Patterns of Potential Human Progress, Vol 3: Improving Global Health-Forecasting the Next 50 Years by Barry B. Hughes and four others (Paradigm Publishers and Pardee Center for International Futures, Jan 2011).  A Green Growth strategy would also help to fight global poverty and improve global health. 

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