360 pages, 9 b/w line drawings
All systems produce waste as part of a cycle--bacteria, humans, combustion engines, even one as large and complex as a city. To some extent, this waste can be absorbed, processed, or recycled--though never completely. In "Wasted World", Rob Hengeveld reveals how a long history of human consumption has left our world drowning in waste.
This is a compelling and urgent work that traces the related histories of population growth and resource consumption. As Hengeveld explains, human life (and population growth) depends not only on mineral resources but also on energy. People first obtained energy from food and later supplemented this with energy from water, wind, and animals as one source after another fell short of our ever-growing needs. Finally, we turned to fossil energy, which generates atmospheric waste that is the key driver of global climate change. The effects of this climate change are already leading to food shortages and social collapse in some parts of the world. Because all of these problems are interconnected, Hengeveld argues strenuously that measures to counter individual problems cannot work. Instead, we need to tackle their common cause--our staggering population growth. While many scientists agree that population growth is one of the most critical issues pressuring the environment, Hengeveld is unique in his insistence on turning our attention to the waste such growth leaves in its wake and to the increasing demands of our global society.
A practical look at the sustainability of our planet from the perspective of a biologist whose expertise is in the abundances and distributions of species, "Wasted World" presents a fascinating picture of the whole process of using, wasting, and exhausting energy and material resources. And by elucidating the complexity of the causes of our current global state, Hengeveld offers us a way forward.
This is a fresh new way of looking at our core problems on the planet--a different lens to try to understand why we're having such problems and how me might find better paths.
- Bill McKibben, author of "Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet"
"Rob Hengeveld puts eloquently to the general public a set of problems which have been evident to environmental scientists for years: the problem of the unfettered growth of the human population--far in excess of any other large animal, and far more than the earth's resources can sustain--and the constantly increasing demand on resources by each human individual, often expressed in terms of his or her 'footprint' on the earth's surface. His discursive style, often enlivened by personal anecdotes, makes easy reading. I recommend this book to any reader concerned--as we all should be--with the near-term future of humanity."
- David Goodall, Edith Cowan University
"A riveting, unique perspective on the myriad global environmental problems and their linkages. 'Wasted World' shows how human activities produce ever more waste, how the waste is irrevocably changing our planet, and the very narrow path we need to follow, and quickly, to prevent an all-encompassing disaster. If you read only one book about the roots of our environmental predicament, make it this one."
- Dan Simberloff, University of Tennessee
"Rob Hengeveld provides a broad history of humanity's impacts on Earth's life support systems, leading to today's pivotal and dangerous moment. 'Wasted World' is a sobering read that provides us with an understanding of how this urgent situation came to be. It is possible to pull Earth back from the brink--if we act on Hengeveld's message."
- Gretchen Daily, Stanford University
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