The Triple Crises of Civilization

August 1, 2010 • Climate Change & Mitigation, Daily Email Recap

Thanks to George Plumb for this OpEd.

The Triple Crises of Civilization
Rev. David Murphy and George Plumb, May, 2010
May 16, 2010

The evidence is overwhelming. We are facing triple crises. Global warming is already happening. We are at or close to being at peak oil (and some say as a result, peak money) production. We have exceeded our carrying capacity and are still adding three million people to the U.S. population and eighty million to the earth each year. Between the two of us we have read almost all of the books below and are deeply impressed that so many prominent environmentalists, scientists, spiritual leaders, and educators have written so many books about crisis and collapse in just the last few years.

We urge all who care about the future to read at least one book from each of the categories. In this time of greenwashing by corporations and politicians there is nothing more important that we can do than to be well informed about these issues. If you only have time or motivation to read only a couple of books, then James Hansen’s book, The Storms of my Grandchildren, and Michael Rupert’s Confronting Collapse are must reads. While there are many more books that have been written in each category, we have listed what we think are the best four in terms of information and ideas on how to deal with the crises. While the reading may at times be discouraging it will also likely motivate people to action as it has us.

All political, environmental, religious, and social justice leaders and followers need to come together to acknowledge each of these problems and either begin new movements, strengthen existing movements, or a combination of the two, to begin to fulfill our responsibility to the earth and future generations.

Peak OIL
The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, James Howard Kunstler, Atlantic Monthly Press, 20051
Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines, Richard Heinberg, New Society Publishers, 20071
Confronting Collapse: The Crisis of Energy and Money in a Post-Peak Oil World
, Michael Rupert, Chelsea Green Press, 20092
Transition Handbook, Rob Hopkins, Chelsea Green Press, 2009

Climate Change
Storms of my Grandchildren, James Hansen, Bloombury USA, 20091
Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, Al Gore, Rodale Press, 20091
Eaarth, Bill McKibben, Times Books, 20101
Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Lester Brown, W.W. Norton Co., 20091

Population Size and Growth
A Pivotal Moment: Population, Justice and the Environmental Challenge, Laurie Mazur, Island Press, 20101
Growing Pains: A Planet in Distress, Valorie M. Allen, IUniverse Press, 20101
The Population: Fix-Breaking America’s Addiction to Population Growth, Edward Hartman, out of print but available through used sources at, 20061
More: Population, Nature and What Women Want, Robert Engelman, Island Press, 20081

Combined Crisis
The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability, Gus Speth, Yale University Press, 20081
Threshold: The Crisis of Western Civilization, Thom Hartmann, Viking Press, 20091
endgame-the problem of civilization, derrick jensen, Seven Stories Press, 20061
The Vanishing Face of Gaia: The Final Warning: Enjoy it while you can, James Lovelock, Allen Lane, 20091

Religious Point of View
A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency, John Stanley, David R. Lay, and Gyurme Dorje, Wisdom Press, 2008
Love God, Heal Earth: The Ecological Crisis through the Lens of Faith, Rev. Canon Sally G. Bingham (founder of Interfaith Power and Light), SkyLight Paths Publishing, 2009
Claiming Earth as Common Ground, Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener, St. Lynn’s Press, 2009
A Climate Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions, Katherine Hayhoe and Andrew Farley, Hachette Book Group, 2009

(1) Books that stress population size and growth as a factor that must be dealt with.
(2) Rupert says that the population is going to crash because of peak oil.

Rev. David Murphy is a retired Methodist minister and now lives his life as sustainably as possible. He and his wife Judy operate Splendid Oak Farm in Montpelier, Vt., and they are in the process of installing a solar system that will generate most of their electricity. He and Judy are also the co-chairs of the Central Vermont Post Carbon Sustainability Network.

George Plumb is Executive Director of Vermonters for Sustainable Population and Chair of the New England Coalition for Sustainable Population. He is a long time environmental activist and has organized a couple of Central Vermont actions. He is an active Unitarian Universalist and practices Buddhism.

Current World Population


Net Growth During Your Visit