With human civilization hurtling closer and closer to the brink of collapse, big-picture solutions are needed. Fast.
In Civilization Critical, Darrin Qualman argues that in order to understand our present situation and our possible futures, we must focus on material and energy flows. The dominant patterns of nature are loops – circular flows of nutrients, seeds, water, carbon and other materials – while human systems are linear: moving from extraction to the factory, the store, the consumer and the landfill. Our petro-industrial systems are misshapen and cannot be sustained by the biosphere. Sustainability requires reconfiguring the linear flows of human systems to match the circular, recycling flows of natural (and pre-industrial) systems. Once we undertake this transformation, many of our problems will begin to abate; until we do so, most will intensify.
In this sweeping work, Qualman pushes the boundaries of existing environmental analysis by looking across the millennia to identify the core processes that give rise to environmental and economic problems and reveals how our sometimes-wondrous, sometimes-monstrous civilization really works and how it is threatened.
Darrin Qualman is a civilizational critic. He also farmed with his family in Saskatchewan, Canada, and for many years he served as director of research for Canada's National Farmers Union.