The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization

Thomas Homer-Dixon, Author Island Press $25.95 (429p) ISBN 978-1-59726-064-0
With easy-to-understand terminology and a mountain of research, Toronto author Homer-Dixon (The Ingenuity Gap) faces down imminent, unavoidable and catastrophic threats to modern civilization, keeping a wary eye on mankind's chances to adapt. Methodically illustrating how the modern world is doomed to suffer a large-scale breakdown, Homer-Dixon enumerates the ""tectonic stresses"" on civilization-population growth disparities, energy scarcity, environmental damage, and economic instabilities-and the ""multipliers""-increasing global connectivity and small groups' ability to enact destruction-that help propel them. Woven throughout are well-illustrated comparisons between the current state of industrialized nations-especially the U.S.-with the unsustainable complexities, and subsequent downfall, of the Roman Empire. With each page, humanity's situation seems more dire, but Homer-Dixon argues that the force of ""catagenesis""-the ""commonplace occurrence of renewal through breakdown""-means that good will come from the collapse of civilization as we know it. Unfortunately, he offers few practical suggestions as to how we can prepare for civilization's inevitable failure, and little evidence on which to hang hope. As a result, the book takes on a tone of doomsday prophecy directly at odds with its title. Where Homer-Dixon succeeds admirably is in explaining exactly why modern stresses are so worrisome and the outcomes that neglect could cause.
Reviewed on: 10/01/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-0-676-97723-3
Paperback - 429 pages - 978-1-59726-065-7
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-307-37587-2
Hardcover - 429 pages - 978-0-676-97722-6
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