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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Required reading for reptiles, realists, reformers and radicals
December 9, 2008 - 9:30am

As the title implies, this is reading for everybody. I don't care whether you're concerned about issues of sustainability, national security, economic prosperity or the fiasco which is the Bowl Championship Series. You need to read this. Everybody you know needs to read this. Everybody they know needs to read this.

"This" is a new Global Trends report and long-range outlook from the National Intelligence Council. Not a particularly radical organization, as indicated by its three previous similar reports (looking forward, respectively, to 2010, 2015 and 2020). Those three were pretty reassuring to Americans; even the 2020 report looked forward and saw continued US global dominance, solid economic growth (barring cataclysm), and "enough energy in the ground" to meet our foreseeable needs.

The new report, looking out as far as 2025, is different. It foresees "more change than continuity", sees resource shortages and conflicts forcing much of that change, predicts declining US influence worldwide (still the largest actor, but in a considerably decreased role), and posits that there are many very possible outcomes, based on the choices leaders and countries make. Several of these outcomes, it presents in the form of compressed, information-dense, fictionalized scenarios.

If you read nothing else (and you should, the whole thing is only 120 pages), read the two scenarios titled "October Surprise" and "Politics is Not Always Local". The former describes the potential results of inattention to climate disruption; the latter posits that successful response to environmental change may overwhelm our current forms of governance.

Hmmm ... an organ reporting to the Director of National Intelligence of the United States going so far as to predict (however uncertainly) the decline of the nation-state! Now that's a book that's worth reading.


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