The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability

Monday, November 22nd, 2010, 03:59 WIB
The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability
Name of Book :  The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability
 
Author :  James Gustave Speth
 
Publisher :  Yale University Press, London, 2008
 
Pages :  281
 
 
James Gustave Speth is a distinguished leader and founder of environmental institutions over the past four decades and is Dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University. He was awarded Japan's Blue Planet Prize for "a lifetime of creative and visionary leadership in the search for science-based solutions to global environmental problems".
 
In his book, Speth argues that "what is needed is a radical change in the economic system that takes into account the environmental costs of doing business and refocuses society on building more sustainable ways of living". 
 
The book calls for measures that provide for universal health care and alleviate the devastating effects of mental illness; guarantee good, well-paying jobs and increase employee satisfaction, minimize layoffs and job insecurity and provide for adequate retirement incomes; introduce more family-friendly policies at work, including flextime and easy access to quality child care; and provide individuals with more leisure time for connecting with their families, communities and nature.

This book is composed from total 12 chapters. In Part I of the book, Chapters 1–3, Speth lays the foundation by elaborating the fundamental challenge. He also makes some the key conclusions. In short, my conclusion, after much searching and considerable reluctance, is that most environmental deterioration is a result of systemic failures of the capitalism that we have today and those long-term solutions must seek transformative change in the key features of this contemporary capitalism.

In Part II, Speth addresses these basic features of modern capitalism, in each case seeking to identify the transformative changes needed i.e. The market; Growth; Consumption; the Corporation; Capitalism Core.

In Part III, Speth considers two potential drivers of transformative change: A new consciousness. In Chapter 10, he focuses on the prospect for profound change in social values, culture, and worldviews. he explores how today’s dominant values contribute abundantly to social and environmental alienation and what might lead to a new consciousness that gives priority to nonmaterialistic lives and to our relationships with one another and the natural world. A new politics. In Chapter 11, Speth addresses the search for a new and vital democratic politics—one premised on addressing America’s growing political inequality and capable of embracing neglected environmental and social needs and sustaining the difficult actions needed. He examines the vital longer-term goal of strong democracy as well as the immediate steps needed to forge a new environmental politics. An important question in this regard is whether a popular movement that can drive real change is being born.

This is a depressing book as it clearly lays out the challenges facing us; it is hoped that it does provide a "bridge" to get us from this world to the next. It is up to us to build it and then be ready to walk over it.

On the other hand, the Bridge at the Edge of the World can be seen as a guide for moving towards cultural, social, and environmental equity that could in turn lead to balanced sustainability in the planet's future.

Finally, through his book, Speth gives us new lenses with which to see what we have done to our environment and, more important, to see what we can do to restore it. He challenges us all to act not for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren. In particular, he takes on the most powerful guardians of the status quo—our mindsets. The bridge he hopes to construct has its bridgehead firmly based in today, because Speth asks us to think about it and then to use our creativity, imagination, and the power of common purpose to act to restore the environment and create a healthier world.

 

Summary by Cut Mita