By Thomas Homer Dixon

Commanding Hope marshals a fascinating, accessible argument for reinvigorating our cognitive strengths and belief systems to affect urgent systemic change, strengthen our economies and cultures, and renew our hope for a positive future for everyone on Earth.

Frightening pandemics, terrible inequality, racism and poverty, rising political authoritarianism, the inescapable climate crisis, and the resuscitated danger of nuclear war.

We know the story. Some choose not to see it. Each of these crises seems so much larger than any one of us can understand or handle. Yet today, they all seem to be going critical simultaneously. In Commanding Hope, I show why and how we got here; and most importantly, I show the powers we possess to renew our imperiled world. This is a hopeful book.

In Kim Stanley Robinson’s anti-dystopian novel, climate change is the crisis that finally forces mankind to deal with global inequality.

New York Review, by Bill McKibben

The prolific science-fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson, who is at heart an optimist, opens his newest novel, The Ministry for the Future, with a long set piece as bleak as it is plausible. Somewhere in a small city on the Gangetic Plain in Uttar Pradesh during the summer of 2025, Frank, a young American working for an NGO, wakes up in his room above a clinic to find that an unusually severe pre-monsoon heat wave has grown hotter still and more humid—that the conditions outside are rapidly approaching the limit of human survival. Actually, conditions inside are approaching the same level, because the power has gone out.

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How Everything Can Collapse: A Manual for Our Times, co-authored by Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens, provides “a valuable guide to help everyone make sense of the new and potentially catastrophic situation in which we now find ourselves.”

What if our civilization were to collapse? Not many centuries into the future, but in our own lifetimes? Most people recognize that we face huge challenges today, from climate change and its potentially catastrophic consequences to a plethora of socio-political problems, but we find it hard to face up to the very real possibility that these crises could produce a collapse of our entire civilization.

In The Road, a father and son traverse a bleak landscape after the apocalypse. The father knows he is dying.  He knows they can’t survive another winter so they head south through California toward the coast.  All of Cormac McCarthy’s great fiction is grim—All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing. But no other book by McCarthy is so unremittingly grim as The Road. It won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and was adopted as a film in 2009.

This superb post-apocalypse novel compares well with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but is somehow less unremittingly grim. The protagonist Hig has survived the pandemic that killed everyone he knows.  He lives in a small abandoned airport with his dog and one other man, a veteran sharpshooter. Then he finds a woman he loves.

The Upside of Down by Thomas Homer-Dixon takes the reader on a mind-stretching tour of societies’ management, or mismanagement, of disasters over time. From the demise of ancient Rome to contemporary climate change, this book analyzes what happens when multiple crises compound to cause what the author calls “synchronous failure.” But crisis doesn’t have to mean total calamity. Through catagenesis, or creative, bold reform in the wake of breakdown, it is possible to
reinvent our future.

The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells brings into stark relief the climate troubles that await. Without a revolution in how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth could become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century.

Bill McKibben’s Falter tells the story of converging trends—global warming, new technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics—and of the ideological fervor that keeps us from bringing them under control.

Surviving the Future by David Fleming and Shaun Chamberlin lays out a compelling and powerfully different new economics for a post-growth world.  One that relies not on taut competitiveness and eternally increasing productivity—“putting the grim into reality”—but on the play, humor, conversation, and reciprocal obligations of a rich culture.

David Fleming’s Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It leads readers through a stimulating exploration of fields as diverse as culture, history, science, art, logic, ethics, myth, economics, and anthropology, comprising four hundred and four engaging essay-entries covering topics such as Boredom, Community, Debt, Growth, Harmless Lunatics, Land, Lean Thinking, Nanotechnology, Play, Religion, Spirit, Trust, and Utopia.

In times of upheaval, why do some people, communities, companies and systems thrive, while others fall apart? That’s the question at the heart of an exciting new field, and an urgent new agenda for the 21st century. In Resilience, Andrew Zolli and Ann Marie Healy bring you important scientific discoveries, pioneering social innovations, and vital new approaches to constructing a more resilient future. You may never look at your world, your organization, or yourself the same way again.

The Community Resilience Reader: Essential Resources for an Era of Upheaval, Edited by Daniel Lerch, combines a fresh look at the crises humanity faces, the essential tools of resilience science, and the wisdom of activists, scholars, and analysts working on the ground.

National and global efforts have failed to stop climate change, transition our society from fossil fuels, and reduce inequality. We must now confront these and other challenges by building resilience at the level of communities. The Community Resilience Reader: Essential Resources for an Era of Upheaval (Island Press, 2017) combines a fresh look at the crises humanity faces, the essential tools of resilience science, and the wisdom of activists, scholars, and analysts working on the ground. From Post Carbon Institute, producers of the award-winning The Post Carbon Reader (Watershed Media, 2010), The Community Resilience Reader is a valuable resource for community leaders, students, and concerned citizens.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond includes four sets of studies. Seven chapters discuss some of the clearest, most familiar, most striking examples of past collapses: the ends of Polynesian societies on Henderson and Pitcairn Islands, where everybody either did abandon the island or else ended up dead; the end of the Viking settlements on Greenland, which similarly disappeared completely; the disappearance of Anasazi settlements in desert areas of the U.S. Southwest; the decline and abandonment of Classic Maya cities in the Southern Maya lowlands, while Maya cities survived outside those southern lowlands; and the decline of Easter Island’s Polynesian society, famous for erecting giant stone statues.

Apologies to the Grandchildren by William Ophuls is a collection of essays that throw light on questions of ecological collapse, the connection between the ecological crisis and the breakdown of liberal democracy, and what society will look like when we exhaust solar capital in the form of fossil fuels and must live once again on the daily and seasonal flow of solar income. This book illuminates the forces that will determine the long-term future of humanity.

Resilience Thinking offers a different way of understanding the world and a new approach to managing resources. It embraces human and natural systems as complex entities continually adapting through cycles of change, and seeks to understand the qualities of a system that must be maintained or enhanced in order to achieve sustainability. It explains why greater efficiency by itself cannot solve resource problems and offers a constructive alternative that opens up options rather than closing them down. Written by Carl Folke, Stephen R. Carpenter, Brian Walker, Marten Scheffer, Terry Chapin and Johan Rockström.

Panarchy is the structure in which systems, including those of nature (e.g., forests) and of humans (e.g., capitalism), as well as combined human-natural systems (e.g., institutions that govern natural resource use such as the Forest Service), are interlinked in continual adaptive cycles of growth, accumulation, restructuring, and renewal. Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems brings together leading thinkers on the subject. Edited by Lance H. Gunderson and C. S. Holling.

It is time, says renegade economist Kate Raworth, to revise our economic thinking for the 21st century. In Doughnut Economics, she sets out seven key ways to fundamentally reframe our understanding of what economics is and does.