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Red Sky at Morning

Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment

James Gustave Speth
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Red Sky at Morning
    Book Description:

    This book will change the way we understand the future of our planet. It is both alarming and hopeful. James Gustave Speth, renowned as a visionary environmentalist leader, warns that in spite of all the international negotiations and agreements of the past two decades, efforts to protect Earth's environment are not succeeding. Still, he says, the challenges are not insurmountable. He offers comprehensive, viable new strategies for dealing with environmental threats around the world.

    The author explains why current approaches to critical global environmental problems-climate change, biodiversity loss, deterioration of marine environments, deforestation, water shortages, and others-don't work. He offers intriguing insights into why we have been able to address domestic environmental threats with some success while largely failing at the international level. Setting forth eight specific steps to a sustainable future, Speth convincingly argues that dramatically different government and citizen action are now urgent. If ever a book could be described as "essential," this is it.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12832-1
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Prologue: 1980
    (pp. 1-10)

    What did the president know, and when did he know it?Senator Howard Baker, Watergate hearings, 1973

    Red Sky at Morningtells a story, and we are its authors. The plot is driven by human propagation and poverty and even more by a vast and growing world economy. There is a beleaguered heroine, Mother Earth. The story’s ending has not yet been written. There are two possible outcomes, one tragic and one not. A global crisis has unfolded quickly, and, as in classic Greek tragedy, we have been told what the future may hold, but so far we seem unable...

  5. Part One Environmental Challenges Go Global . . .
    (pp. 11-12)

    The destruction of the environment as a by-product of human enterprise is not new, but for most of our history it remained a localized and limited problem. The many forms of damage to the earth and its creatures increased in severity and scope during the Industrial Revolution. Yet it was not until just after World War II that the fast-forward button was pushed down and held.

    Before we can understand why we have failed to act in our own and nature’s interest, and what we can do to change, we need to examine what we are doing to the natural...

  6. Part Two. . . . And the World Responds

    • 4 First Attempt at Global Environmental Governance
      (pp. 77-97)

      The good news is that, starting in the 1980s, governments and others did take notice of large-scale environmental deterioration and did begin the process of assuming responsibility for planetary management. What has emerged since is the international community’s first attempt at global environmental governance. All is not well in this new arena, to say the least, but it is important to acknowledge what has been accomplished.

      Before examining these accomplishments, I should comment on vocabulary. “Global governance” does not imply a global government; nor does it include only the actions of governments. Many nongovernmental communities, for-profit and not-for-profit, are already...

    • 5 Anatomy of Failure
      (pp. 98-116)

      If our first attempt at global environmental governance has yielded so little, it is important to ask why. Our second attempt may be our last chance to get it right before we reap an appalling deterioration of our natural assets, so we should learn quickly from past mistakes.

      Here is the way I would characterize the response to global threats to date: a highly threatening disease is attacking our patient, Mother Earth, and, to cure it, we have brought medicine that is pitifully weak. This is not to say that the medicine has done nothing—it helped a bit—but...

  7. Part Three. Facing Up to Underlying Causes

    • 6 Ten Drivers of Environmental Deterioration
      (pp. 119-139)

      If the first attempt at global environmental governance was aimed primarily at symptoms, future

      efforts must attack the disease itself. Powerful forces drive the overlapping and interacting processes of biotic impoverishment, toxification, and atmospheric change. We know that these processes are caused, first, by human appropriation and consumption of natural resources and, second, by pollution. Our economic activity, in the largest sense, is consuming nature and pouring out products and pollution. What James Carville famously said about what was important politically in 1992—“It’s the economy, stupid”— applies equally when we ask what is important in causing environmental deterioration.


    • 7 Globalization and the Environment
      (pp. 140-148)

      Globalization, columnist Thomas Friedman says, “shrinks the world from a size medium to a size small.”¹ It is a process of integrating not just distant economies but also remote cultures, environments, and governments.²

      To its proponents, globalization is seen as helping to cure a multitude of the world’s ills. To its critics, it is seen as a “false dawn” driven by the “manic logic of global capitalism.”³ But all agree that it is happening, and most believe that it is unstoppable.

      Perhaps the only concept as heavily laden with multiple agendas as globalization is “sustainable development.” Former President Clinton, a...

  8. Part Four. The Transition to Sustainability

    • 8 Attacking the Root Causes
      (pp. 151-171)

      Global environmental challenges are closely interlinked. They cut across economic sectors and geographical regions. They cannot be addressed issue by issue or by one nation or even by a small group of nations acting alone. They are driven by powerful forces and will not yield to the modest efforts we have been mounting.

      Against this backdrop, what the world community does in the decades immediately ahead is crucial. Environmental decay will inevitably continue during this period: today’s trends pack such enormous momentum that halting them will take many years. But this period can also become the watershed during which nations...

    • 9 Taking “Good Governance” Seriously
      (pp. 172-190)

      The seventh transition must take place in institutions and governance. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a leading international group of major corporations, has sketched several illustrative scenarios depicting different approaches to environmental governance. One they playfully call “FROG”: First Raise Our Growth. The FROG philosophy is to meet economic challenges first and worry about the environment later. FROG is thus a business-as-usual scenario leading to huge environmental costs. FROG leads not just to a wrecked global ecosystem but to a wrecked global society as well. It is a path to failure even in the eyes of the business-oriented...

    • 10 The Most Fundamental Transition of All
      (pp. 191-202)

      The most fundamental transition is the transition in culture and consciousness. The change that is needed can be best put as follows: in the twentieth century we were from Mars but in the twenty-first century we must be from Venus—caring, nurturing, and sustaining.

      Paul Raskin and his colleagues in the Global Scenario Group have envisioned a future when these and other human values are realized. “Here is a civilization of unprecedented freedom, tolerance and decency. The pursuit of meaningful and fulfilling lives is a universal right, the bonds of human solidarity have never been stronger and ecological sensibility infuses...

  9. Afterword
    (pp. 203-230)

    On the morning of 30 October 2004, three days before the U.S. presidential election, the front page of theNew York Timesgreeted us with two news stories of great relevance to the challenges discussed in this book. One reported the now-famous video of Osama bin Laden lecturing us on how to avoid another September 11. The other featured a topic rarely on the front pages of American newspapers—global climate change. The climate story’s lead summarized a major report: “A comprehensive four-year study of warming in the Arctic shows that heat-trapping gases from tailpipes and smokestacks around the world...

  10. Resources for Citizens
    (pp. 231-256)
  11. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 257-260)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 261-298)
  13. For Further Reading: A Bookshelf
    (pp. 299-306)
  14. Index
    (pp. 307-329)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 330-331)