Notes provided by Regina Mezei
The New Jersey Fulbright Association has begun informal sessions
(usually at restaurants) as a book club to discuss timely works on
international topics. We have held three of these sessions so far. The
latest gathering was held on February 10, 2013 in Iselin, NJ at the Rasoi
Restaurant (great Indian cuisine). We focused on global environmental
issues via the book “The Great Disruption” by Paul Gilding (Bloomsbury
Gilding’s main thesis is that despite the steady stream of recent ecological
disasters and severe weather episodes, public opinion has not yet been
mobilized in a world-wide cooperative effort to deal with sustainability.
He therefore predicts a “great disruption” that will require international
cooperation to save the planet. According to Gilding, the world’s eco-
system is beyond sustainability at 140%, and the numbers will only get
worse. Population growth is a factor, of course, but more significant is
“consumer growth.” All nations rich and poor seek to eliminate poverty,
and herein lies a great dilemma. If the populations of developing nations
attain the comforts and goods of westerners (a middle class consumer
existence), sustainability will reach crisis proportions.
In addition, we are all “addicted to growth;” all people pursue material
improvement. Furthermore, we are told by our governments that consumption
fuels the economy and job growth, so we should “spend” our way out of
recession. But at some point, we will have to face the reality of the end of
growth, according to Gilding. He devotes one chapter to possible changes
in patterns of consumption entitled “Yes, There Is Life After Shopping.”
Gilding’s conclusion is not totally pessimistic. The world will respond. He
recommends life-changing habits and civic mobilization. Nevertheless, the
crash is coming, he says; that is not debatable. It is what we do after the
crash that is important.
Please feel free to suggest a book for our future book discussion events.