the upside of down
The Upside of Down sets out a theory of the growth, crisis, and renewal of societies. Today’s converging energy, environmental, and political-economic stresses could cause a breakdown of national and global order. Yet there are things we can do now to keep such a breakdown from being catastrophic. And some kinds of breakdown could even open up extraordinary opportunities for creative, bold reform of our societies, if we’re prepared to exploit these opportunities when they arise.
This is a groundbreaking, essential book for our times. Thomas Homer-Dixon brings to bear his formidable understanding of the urgent problems that confront our world to clarify their scope and deep causes. The Upside of Down provides a vivid picture of the immense stresses that are simultaneously converging on our societies and threatening a breakdown that would profoundly shake civilization. It shows, too, how we can choose a better route into the future.
With the immediacy that characterized his award-winning international bestseller, The Ingenuity Gap, Homer-Dixon takes us on a remarkable journey – from the fall of the Roman empire to the devastation of the 9/11 attacks in New York, from Toronto in the 2003 blackout to the ancient temples of Lebanon and the wildfires of California. Incorporating the newest findings from an astonishing array of disciplines, he argues that the great stresses our world is experiencing – global warming, energy scarcity, population imbalances, and widening gaps between rich and poor – can’t be looked at independently. As these stresses combine and converge, the risk of breakdown rises. The first signs are appearing in the wastelands of the Arctic, the mud-clogged streets of Gonaïves, Haiti, and the volatile regions of the Middle East and Asia. But while the consequences of denial in our more perilous world are dire, Homer-Dixon makes clear that we can use our emerging understanding of the complex systems in which we live to avoid catastrophic collapse in a way the Roman empire could not.
This vitally important new book shows how, in the face of breakdown, we can still provide for the renewal of our global civilization. We are creating the conditions for catastrophe, but by understanding the underlying principles that make human and natural systems resilient – and by working together to put those principles into effect – we can still limit the severity of collapse and foster regeneration, innovation, and renewal.
All this turbulence makes it seem as if nothing is dependable. Shocks and surprises seem to rush toward us faster than ever before. As I sat among the Forum’s scattered ruins, trying to imagine what the place must have looked like two thousand years ago, I asked myself, Did the Romans…
“Thomas Homer-Dixon [is] one of the best-informed and most brilliant writers on global affairs today.” – Dylan Evans, The Guardian
“Anyone who wants to get serious about the defense of civilization had better read The Upside of Down.” – James Howard Kunstler
“Governments everywhere, from his native Canada to the UK, pay attention to [Homer-Dixon] because the kites he flies are less prone to crashing than most. So his latest book, The Upside of Down, is likely to be read by policy wonks and worried individuals alike. It’s a wake-up call for millions feeling overwhelmed by an unrelieved diet of disaster.” – Ehsan Masood, The New Scientist
“An extraordinarily important book.” – Quill & Quire