The Great Disruption by Paul Gilding

Bloomsbury 2012

Reviewed by Warwick Silvester, a member of Hamilton Sea of Faith and retired Professor of Botany, University of Waikato

There is a terrifying concurrence of human-induced crises bearing down on the planet for which we have no coherent mitigation plan. Global climate, population growth, resource overuse, soil and water contamination are reaching crisis points together, in what Gilding describes as The Great Disruption. All of which are immeasurably amplified by our addiction to growth. In the words of Gilding: “If you thought the financial situation... was a  crisis,...climate change a cultural, economic and political challenge, then hold on for the ride. We are about to witness humanity deal with its biggest crisis ever, something that will shake it to the core — the end of economic growth.”
The author of this apocalyptic book is the grandson of a Methodist minister, and his parents (would you believe Wesley and Ruth) raised him with a strong sense of social conscience. He presents with devastating clarity the link between our addiction to economic  growth and the environmental crises of our time, and shows that denial is delaying the inevitable, making the end point more calamitous.
Gilding demonstrates the linkages between these phenomena and, while expressing anger and frustration at the level of denial that exists at all levels, and particularly at the political level, he also looks for and finds hope in the resilience of humankind to finally recognize and find solutions to our addiction. Like any addiction one goes through denial before hitting the gutter and ultimately finding solutions. A sampling of some chapter headings will give you some insight into the provenance of the great disruption: Beyond the Limits; Are we Finished? Yes there is Life after Shopping. The great thing about this book is that Gilding sees many positive signs and in his last chapter entitled Guess who is in Charge he cites many examples of the growing awareness of the problems and states “The only force on earth powerful enough to fix this now is us.”
Assuredly this planet is heading for enormous upheaval; already the world’s resources are 40%
overcommitted and the consequent disruption is falling unevenly on nations and communities. As the reviewer for the New York Times has so clearly stated: “Ignore Gilding at your peril.”



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