GFB Update 2:6, June-July 2012

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


Prepared by Michael Marien

In This Issue
July Book of the Month:Randers Report to Club of Rome
June Book of the Month: UN Panel on Global Sustainability
Selected Recommended Books on Global Issues
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July Book of the Month

Randers Report to Club of Rome

2052 cover

2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years. Report to the Club of Rome. Jorgen Randers (BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo). White River Junction VT: Chelsea Green, June 2012, 392p, $24.95pb (


A provocative report to the CoR on the 40th 

anniversary of The Limits to Growth, written by one of the four original authors. This broad-ranging detailed forecast is "an informed guess... (on) the probable global evolution toward 2052," based on the premise that "humanity remains in solid overshoot...(leading to) gradual destruction of the ecosystem."


Five big issues are highlighted: control of capitalism, ending economic growth, ending slow democracy, intergenerational conflict, and the end of stable climate. The highly detailed forecast includes world population peaking at 8.1 billion in the early 2040s, world GDP 2.2 times as big as today, increasing investment and declining consumption, no change in unemployment levels, rising resource costs, energy intensity falling by a third, CO2 emissions peaking in 2030, average temperature rise of >2.0C, resource and climate problems not yet catastrophic, China as world leader with average GDP growth of 3.5%/year, the US growing at an average of only 0.6%/year, and wide disparities in wealth/income, and increases in temperature (from 0.0C to >4.0C).


Concludes with 21 "pieces of personal advice" such as focus on satisfaction rather than income, see biodiversity now before it wanes, learn Mandarin Chinese, know the unsustainabilities that threaten your quality of life, remember that the future will be dominated by physical limits, and don't let a suboptimal long-term future kill your hope.


NOTE: Everyone will find many points of agreement and disagreement, especially with the striking population forecast. See COMMENT at end of full review for elaboration.


Click here for full review.



June Book of the Month 

UN Panel on Global Sustainability

Resilient People. Resilient Planet. report
Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing. Report of the United Nations Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability.  NY: United Nations, 30 Jan 2012, 94p (

Sustainable development, introduced by Our Common Future

in 1987 (a.k.a. The Brundtland Report), remains a generally agreed concept, but not a practical reality. It has clearly suffered from a failure of political will, and has not yet been incorporated into mainstream policy debate. Yet it is more urgent than ever, and the time has come for genuine integrated global action, because the cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of action. The long-term vision of the High-level Panel, reaffirming the 1987 Report, is to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality, make production and consumption more sustainable, and combat climate change while respecting a range of other planetary boundaries.


The Panel presents 56 proposals to advance its vision in three categories.


1) To Empower People to Make Sustainable Choices: achieve the Millennium Development Goals, promote human rights, advance gender equality, universal access to secondary education by 2030, promote "green jobs" and decent work, create an "ever-green revolution" that doubles productivity while drastically reducing resource use and pollution, ensure basic safety nets for all citizens, universal telecoms and broadband by 2025, etc.


2) To Promote a Sustainable Economy: price signals that value sustainability, long-term incentives for sustainable practices, transparent disclosure of all subsidies, sustainable public procurement, sustainable development reporting for corporations, public-private partnerships for capacity-building, a Sustainable Development Index or similar set of indicators by 2014, etc.


3) To Strengthen Institutional Governance: overcome fragmented institutions set up around single-issue "silos" and the "frequent failure to anticipate and plan," ensure the rule of law and good governance, enable young people's participation, adopt "whole-of-government" approaches to sustainability, incorporate the SD perspective into legislation and budget processes, develop a set of key universal SD goals to complement the MDGs and galvanize action, prepare a regular SD Outlook report, create a Global SD Council to address emerging issues, implement the UN's "Sustainable Energy for All" initiative, create a major global scientific initiative to assess "tipping points" and "environmental thresholds," etc.


NOTE: Many of these proposals will be on the UN agenda over the next decade. Yet, sadly, none of these concerns are close to being considered in the 2012 US presidential contest. Far better outreach is needed to  promote sustainable development and thus the necessary political will for significant action.


Click here for full review. 



Feature of the Month

Selected Recommended Books on Global Issues, 2011-2012


World Futures WORLD AFFAIRS   


In Strategic Vision : America and the Crisis of Global Power (Basic Books, Jan 2012), former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski addresses the changing distribution of global power from West to East, the new reality of a "politically awakened humanity," why America's global appeal is waning, symptoms of US domestic and international decline, and desirable long-term goals for a more vital West. (Also see No One's World : The West, the Rising Rest, and the Coming Global Turn; GFB Book of the Month, March 2012.)


Several books point to creating a better world. Building Global Democracy? Civil Society and Accountable Global Governance edited by Jan Aart Scholte (Cambridge UP, May 2011) argues that the scale, effectiveness, and legitimacy of global governance lag far behind world needs, and assesses what works to make global bodies more accountable.  The Sphere Handbook: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response (Practical Action Publishing/Stylus, April 2011) seeks to promote standards by which the global community responds to people affected by disasters. A global commission report on Improving the Governance of International Migration (Bertelsmann/MPI/Brookings) calls for a formal multilateral framework to govern the global flow of migrants, echoing the concerns of Tackling the Policy Challenges of Migration: Regulation, Integration, Development (OECD, Feb 2012), which views current governance of migration as insufficient and inefficient. 


More idealistically, A Quest for Humanity: The Good Society in a Global World by Menno Boldt (U of Toronto Press, Dec 2011) calls for a morality that is based on an authentic and universal humane principle. Equally idealistic, and sharply contrasting, Welcome to the Future Cloud: Mobile People, Green Profit & Happy Countries

by Dutch futurist Marcel Bullinga (Future Check, 2011) views a technology-saturated world around 2025 with cheap and unlimited energy, high-quality 3-D products, urban farms and green buildings as standard, super-materials from abundant local sources, a global economic boom, and far more efficient law enforcement (This slickly-produced book isobviously over-the-top, but somewhat plausible).


global economy WORLD ECONOMY  


Global Development Horizons 2011-Multipolarity: The New Global Economy (World Bank, June 2011) complements the two lead items in "World Futures" (above), describing a multi-polar world emerging by 2025, a shift in the balance of global growth, and evolution of a multicurrency regime. Aftermath: A New Global Economic Order?(NYU Press/SSRC, July 2011), Volume III of the Possible Futures Series of the Social Science Research Council, examines deep problems of mainstream economics, which countries will grow in coming decades, and likely conflicts of trade policy and currency standards. Volume II in the Series, The Deepening Crisis: Governance Challenges after Neoliberalism (NYU/SSRC, July 2011), addresses issues of environment, global security, ethnicity, nationalism, and response to the financial meltdown. In the Wake of the Crisis: Leading Economists Reassess Economic Policy (MIT Press, March 2012) discusses directions for monetary and fiscal policy, financial regulation, growth strategies, the international monetary system, and economic models to underpin policy choices. The Money Laundry: Regulating Criminal Finance in the Global Economy (Cornell UP, Nov 2011) argues that many countries now have standardized anti-money laundering policies, in contrast to no such laws a generation ago, but there are few benefits to these policies along with high costs.


Lost Decades: The Making of America's Debt Crisis and the Long Recovery (W.W. Norton, Sept 2011) describes the US borrowing binge that pulled much of the world along with it--$5 trillion to get into the crisis and another $5 trillion to get itself out--concluding that the US and other countries in similar positions face "a very difficult next ten years." But there is hope. The New Industrial Revolution: Consumers, Globalization and the End of Mass Production by Peter Marsh of the Financial Times (Yale UP, May 2012) argues that opportunities for the "old economies" are not over, due to advances in technology and the growing important of sustainable production. The Europe 2020 Strategy: Can It Maintain the EU's Competitiveness in the World? (Centre for Economic Policy Studies/Brookings) explains the EC's Europe 2020 strategy that aims for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth, based on greener and more efficient use of resources. The Restructuring of Capitalism in Our Time by William K. Tabb (Columbia UP, Jan 2012), however, criticizes the shift in the US economy to financialization and argues for a structure of accumulation that values economic justice over profit and favors sustainable growth.




Over the Horizon Proliferation Threats (Stanford UP, April 2012) warns that the breakdown of security arrangements in the coming years-especially in the Middle East and Northeast Asia-could drive additional countries to seek their own nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and missiles to deliver them. New Battlefields/Old Laws: Critical Debates on Asymmetric Warfare edited by William C. Banks (Columbia UP, Oct 2011) notes that today's conflicts are low-intensity, asymmetrical wars between disparate military forces; gaps in the laws of war leave modern battlefields largely unregulated, which emboldens weaker, non-state combatants. Useful Enemies: When Waging Wars Is More Important Than Winning Them (Yale UP, July 2012) uncovers the complex vested interests on all sides, which explains why conflicts are so prevalent and intractable. The Economics of Killing: How the West Fuels War and Poverty in the Developing World by Vijay Mehta (Pluto Press, April 2012) bluntly describes how the power of global elites, entrenched under globalization, has created a deadly cycle of violence; proposes ways to curb the military-industrial complex, stop terrorism, reduce arms and armies, and make the 21C the century of soft power.


Other constructive insights are also available. Investing in Security: A Global Assessment of Armed Violence Reduction Initiatives

(OECD & UNDP, Sept 2011) maps 570 Armed Violence Reduction and Prevention initiatives worldwide, highlighting promising practices. The Peacekeeping Economy: Using Economic Relationships to Build a More Peaceful, Prosperous, and Secure World by Lloyd J. Dumas (Yale UP, Sept 2011) argues that building economic relationships that replace hostility with a sense of purpose and mutual gain can offer a far more effective and less costly means of maintaining security. A strong feminist argument is made in Sex and World Peace by Valerie M. Hudson et al. (Columbia UP, Feb 2012), asserting that the security of the state affects the security of women, but the systemic insecurity of women acts to unravel the security of all; thus, the situation of women is a vital variable in the incidence of peace and war. Food and the City: Urban Agriculture and the New Food Revolution (Prometheus Books, Feb 2012) describes how people are taking "food security" in their own hands in alternative urban food systems worldwide.


Sustainability ENVIRONMENT


Climate Change and National Security: A Country-Level Analysis edited by Daniel Moran of the Naval Postgraduate School (Georgetown UP, March 2011) addresses yet another important dimension of current security concerns, estimating the mid-term security risks that climate change may pose for the US and its allies through 2030, with profiles of 42 key countries and regions. The OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction (OECD, March 2012) offers a "Baseline Scenario" and a "450 Delayed Action Scenario" regarding paths to stabilize GHGs at 450ppm, biodiversity loss, the deteriorating water situation, and projected impacts on health. World Economic and Social Survey 2011: The Great Green Technological Transformation (United Nations, July 2011) states that, to avoid the climate change tipping point, fundamental shifts are needed to transform manufacturing, agriculture, infrastructure, and living arrangements. Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation, a Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Cambridge UP, Nov 2011), assesses the six most important renewable energy sources and their integration into present and future energy systems, and strategies to overcome obstacles to their application and diffusion. In The Plundered Planet: Why We Must-and How We Can-Manage Nature for Global Prosperity (Oxford UP, Nov 2011), Oxford development expert Paul Collier insists that proper stewardship of natural assets and liabilities is a matter of planetary urgency, and calls for a series of international standards to help poor countries manage their resources. A similar stance is taken in Greening Development: Enhancing Capacity for Environmental Management and Governance (OECD, Jan 2012), pointing to the OECD's Green Growth Strategy ( as a framework for growth that allows natural assets to provide the resources and environmental services on which well-being relies.


As frustration mounts at the perceived inadequacy or speed of international action on climate change, and as the likelihood of significant impacts grows, the focus is increasingly turning to liability for climate change damage against the large polluting countries. Climate Change Liability: Transnational Law and Practice, edited by Richard Lord et al. (Cambridge UP, Jan 2012), surveys the existing law and the direction it might take in the EU and in 17 countries (including China, India, and the US). Also see Climate Change Liability edited by Michael Faure and Marjan Peeters (Edward Elgar, 2011).

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