n Social Sustainability, Past and Future, Sander Van der Leeuw examines how the modern world has been caught in a socio-economic dynamic that has generated the conundrum of sustainability. Combining the methods of social science and complex systems science, he explores how western, developed nations have globalized their worldview and how that view has led to the sustainability challenges we are now facing. Its central theme is the co-evolution of cognition, demography, social organization, technology and environmental impact. Beginning with the earliest human societies, Van der Leeuw links the distant past with the present in order to demonstrate how the information and communications technology revolution is undermining many of the institutional pillars on which contemporary societies have been constructed. An original view of social evolution as the history of human information-processing, his book shows how the past offers insight into the present and can help us deal with the future.
1. How this book came about, what it is, and what it is not
2. Defining the challenge
3. Science and society
4. Transdisciplinary pro and contra
5. The importance of a long-term perspective
6. Looking forward into the future
7. The complex (adaptive) systems approach
8. Human socio-environmental coevolution
9. Social systems as dissipative flow structures
10. Solutions always cause problems
11. Transitions in the organization of societies
12. Novelty, invention, change
13. The invention process and its implications for societal information processing
14. Modeling socio-environmental transitions
15. Rise of the West as a global flow structure
16. Are we reaching a global societal tipping point?
17. Not an ordinary tipping point
18. Our fragmenting world
19. Is there a way out?
20. Green growth
Sander van der Leeuw is a Foundation Professor in the Schools of Sustainability and Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University. Trained as an archaeologist and historian, he specializes in long-term interactions between humans and their environments and pioneering the application of the Complex Adaptive Systems approach to socio-environmental challenges, technology, and innovation. Van der Leeuw is the author and editor of eighteen books. In 2012, he was awarded the prize 'Champion of the Earth for Science and Innovation' by the United Nations Environment Program.
"[...] an unequivocally masterful and absolutely brilliant description of dynamically complex and correlated cultural milieus and environmental systems as a cautionary tale for the ages."
R. G. Mendoza, Choice