Top positive review
Clear, concise, compelling treatise on sustainability
Reviewed in the United States on July 4, 2018
Clear, concise, compelling. These are descriptors that came to mind even as I was still reading Ellen Moyer's treatise on sustainability. Dr. Moyer covers a broad array of global issues in a manner one would expect of an engineer. She describes complex, interrelated problems of sustainability, economics, and personal health and well-being with a declarative style and vernacular that bring them to our attention vividly and sharply. For example: “Westerners believe that ‘survival of the fittest’ means duking it out – between or among species, with the victor surviving and the loser dying. Yet this ignores countless real-life examples in which cooperation makes species fittest.” (p.43) The species that fit best with Nature and other species will thrive. This is an important concept in the global sustainability narrative that we have misunderstood for generations but must now urgently grasp.
Dr. Moyer moves through many such issues with both brevity and clarity. Her style and pace allow the reader to maintain interest in the current topic and curiosity about the next. Certainly no stranger to data and scientific notation, she deftly avoids these so as not to confound the reader but rather stick to the heart of the message.
In her section on Health and Happiness, the matter-of-fact scientist/engineer surprises with: “Love is absolutely required for the survival of our species…human survival depends on once again loving future human generations. Our current course involves sticking them with a big environmental mess…” (p.113) This elegant phrasing is typical of her calling-us-out in a calm but powerful manner. These strong but non-judgmental calls to action are ubiquitous throughout the second-half, solutions phase of the book. She brings home essence with a simple sentence: “Effects of climate change warn us to stop burning things – period.” (p.151) It is noteworthy that more of the book is dedicated to solutions than to problems. Too many writers go into great depth describing the problems facing current and future generations then seem to run out of gas, leaving a scant few pages for overly-broad, often-fuzzy solutions. Not so Dr. Moyer. Her solutions are numerous and practical, real calls to action for both individuals and organizations, corporations and governments. She summarizes these as “five major actions: get money out of politics, green our way of life, green our economies, strengthen our democracies, and create social equality.” (p.204) Then in characteristic style, she provides several bullet points to expand each action and light the path to accomplishment.
Dr. Moyer’s book is extremely well-referenced. She deftly utilizes relevant quotes to reinforce her points while sticking to topic and context. She calls on philosopher Kathleen Dean Moore to weigh in on “How We Can Each Help”: “‘We’ve got to remember that the next generation will have to live in whatever is left of the world after we get done with it.’ “(p.118, note 392)
While not intended to be joyful, the book is nonetheless uplifting as a hopeful and useful guide to sustainability. Dr. Moyer’s call to action is firm and urgent, but compassionate and encouraging at the same time. Thank you Dr. Moyer, and well done.