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Thursday, February 04, 2010

The End of the Long Summer


Our Thursday reading group, Thursdays With Jesus (clever, eh?) is reading an important book by Dianne Dumanoski, The End of Long Summer: Why We Must Remake Civilization to Survive on a Volatile Earth. Plenty of time to get the book and join us. We read chapter three for next week (February 11th). Here is a review:

Award-winning science journalist Dianne Dumanoski considered her 1985 story on the science of the Antarctic ozone hole, published on the front page of the Boston Globe, “the most important story I had ever written.” Humanity had narrowly escaped full-scale disruption of a stratospheric chemical shield essential to our survival. Faulty assumptions and outright mistakes brought us – and all higher life – to the brink of calamity. How, Dumanoski wondered, could a banal, supposedly inert synthetic compound have triggered global jeopardy? How could its chemistry have been so thoroughly misunderstood, mis-measured, and misjudged?

Later, puzzling over the story’s meaning, she came to see it signaling “a new and ominous epoch when human activity began to disrupt the essential but invisible planetary systems that sustain a dynamic, living Earth.” Dumanoski was among the first journalists to break the news to general readers: Disrupting the planet’s metabolism was no longer a theoretical possibility. It was a fact. The ozone story called for new institutions, new economic arrangements, and a new understanding of the Earth.


In The End of the Long Summer, Dumanoski applies the lessons of the ozone story to the challenge she calls “a planetary emergency . . . that involves far more than the pressing problem of climate change.” She examines evolutionary and modern history for clues about our capacity – as a species and as a civilization – to act. Dumanoski’s criterion for success in the coming century is not prosperity, but survival. If she is right, success will boil down to our ability to “shockproof” societies to withstand changes unlike any confronted during the 10,000-year run of the civilization project.
After this book we will read the Bhagavad Gita. Then we will call our little group, Thursdays With Krishna. Join us Thursday mornings at 10:30 at the little progressive church in the woods.
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