The Briefer recommends …
The best Web sites for following global-warming public-policy issues on a regular basis:
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (www.ipcc.ch)
Jim Hansen (www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/)
Climate Progress (www.climateprogress.org)
Please also see www.350.org, which is trying to organize global-warming action on a global basis. One of its leaders is climate-change prophet and activist Bill McKibben, whose official Web site is www.billmckibben.com.
The best DVDs for conveying many of the full range of ecological, economic, spiritual and psychological issues posed by the biospheric crisis:
The Eleventh Hour, by Leondard DiCaprio (please also visit the related Web site, http://11thhouraction.com/)
Of course, the Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, featuring Al Gore, is also highly recommended.
Two key articles for understanding the biospheric crisis:
“The tragedy of the sea,” The Economist, December 30, 2008. Every citizen on Earth should read this piece from The Economist, a moderate publication not given to alarmism, about the state of the world’s oceans.
“Is Humanity Suicidal?” by E.O. Wilson, from The N.Y. Times Sunday Magazine, May 30, 1993 (http://www.well.com/user/davidu/ suicidal.html). Wilson first points to the behaviors that make humanity suicidal, then lists hopeful signs that it is not. If this were strictly an article about evolution, one could debate whether individualism or cooperation has been more characteristic of human evolution. Given the state of the biosphere, however, it is hard to believe that in this case humans’ tendencies to place the well-being of themselves, their families and the immediate future first lie at the heart of their inability to respond meaningfully to their destruction of the biosphere upon which they depend for life itself.
Three best books for understanding what lies at the heart of humans’ biospheric crisis:
The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning, by James Lovelock (Basic Books, 2009), is noteworthy both for the fact that the author, inventor of the “Gaia Hypothesis,” is a distinguished scientist who first discovered ozone layer deterioration. No one writes with as much eloquence, passion and certitude about the biospheric crisis facing humanity today. One can dispute Lovelock’s basic contention that billions of us are already doomed no matter what we do, that we have in effect already passed a critical “tipping point.” But to reasonably do so one must propose dramatic and far-reaching steps, possibly including the use of safe nuclear power, going far beyond any measures presently being taken today.
Denial of Death, by Ernest Becker (Free Press, 1998), is one of the most important books ever written for understanding human behavior. Becker basically reinterprets Freud to say that it is our emotional denial of our own individual deaths, not sex, that is the wellspring of much human behavior. Becker died shortly after finishing his seminal work, but it seems certain that were he alive today he would explain most humans living in denial of their slow species suicide as part and parcel of the denial with which they have grown up in relation to their own individual deaths.
Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans And Other Animals, by John Gray (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2007), a controversial book that offends many by maintaining that the “human animal [is] a highly inventive species that is also one of the most predatory and destructive. Darwin showed humans are like other animals, humanists insist that they are not.” It is possible of course to debate this thesis as a general proposition. But it is difficult to argue with it when applied to our treatment of the biosphere. Gray’s brilliantly argued thesis that humans are like any other animal playing out evolutionary drives over which they have little conscious control may be over the top for some. But only public policies that take this perspective into account have any chance of actually succeeding in saving the human biosphere.